Saturday, March 02, 2013

The Psychology of Power

Prompted by wise Matthew Sweet, whose radio programme on the life of Alex Comfort, Stop Calling Me 'Doctor Sex' is still up on iPlayer, I've been reading Comfort's Authority and Delinquency (1950) - that link takes you to scans of the entire book, though I've also bought one off Abebooks.

It's packed full of interest which I shall endeavour to blog about another time, but given Eastleigh and the AAA rating this week, the following rather chimed:
"One very characteristic - indeed, defining - character of persistent criminals is their baffling ineducability by experience, which leads not only to a repetition of the crime but of the details which led to their detection and arrest. In other words, their behaviour is compulsive. There is an analogous ineducability in government, among the advocates of 'strong' policies. Experience and argument did not prevent successive British 'strong' men (not all of one party) from repeating in Palestine, Cyprus, India and Suez the identical attitudes and errors which lost them Ireland, not Marxists from repeating the aberrations of the Czars. The reasons are identical in the two cases - these are examples of stereotyped behaviour, the actions are performed for the immediate emotional satisfaction they give not for their supposed purposes; other characteristics are unjustified self-confidence, total disregard of others and the substitution of vague objectives such as prestige or revenge for concrete gain, which, even if unelevated, is at least reality-centred. Long-term objectives - national advantage or the victory of an ideology nearly always give place in the event to the overwhelming cathexis of 'strong' action for people in office - the policy is then doggedly persisted in to maintain the illusion of purpose, under the guise of maintaining law and order. To the 'strong' man, as to the persistent thief, it is pointless to argue that crime does not pay - it is the act, not the policy or the thing stolen, which is the true motive. He will 'show them', regardless of whether it pays or not."
Alex Comfort, Authority and Delinquency - A Study in the Psychology of Power (1950), pp. 29-30.

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