07 June 2009

The prime minister is suffering from hubris syndrome

A debate has broken out about Brown’s state of mind.  Iain Dale, at the end of a long day, become involved in bad tempered debate with Michael White on Sky the other night and Subrosa has commented.

I believe what Brown is suffering from is hubris syndrome.  David Owen has published The Hubris Syndrome: Bush, Blair and the Intoxication of Power and In Sickness and in Power: Illness in Heads of Government During the Last 100 Years.  Both are well worth a read, particularly the chapter in the latter book on Eden, who in my judgement Brown can be directly compared with.

In his book on Blair and Bush, Owen lists the symptoms that contribute to hubris syndrome:

  • a narcissistic propensity to see the world primarily as an area in which they can exercise power and seek glory rather than a place with problems that need approaching in a pragmatic and non-referential manner;
  • a predisposition to take action which seem likely to cast them in good light. i.e. in order to enhance their image;
  • A disproportionate concern with image and presentation;
  • a messianic manner of talking about what they are doing and tendency to to exaltation;
  • an identification of themselves with the state to the extent they regard the outlook and the interests of the two as identical;
  • excessive confidence in their own judgement and contempt for the advice of or criticism off others;
  • exaggerated  self-belief, bordering on a sense of omnipotence, in what they can personally achieve;
  • a belief that rather being accountable to the mundane court of colleagues or public opinion, the real court to which they answer is much greater: History or God;
  • an unshakeable belief that in that court they will be vindicated;
  • restlessness, recklessness and impulsiveness;
  • loss of contact with reality; often associated with progressive isolation;
  • a consequent type of incompetence in carrying out a policy, which could be called hubristic incompetence.  This is where things go wrong precisely because too much self-confidence has led the leader not to bother worrying about the nuts and bolts of a policy.  It can be allied to an incurious nature.

If a person has three or four of the above symptoms, Owen argues, then they could considered as having hubris syndrome.

I leave it at that.  Readers can make up their own mind.  There is an important debate to be had about Brown’s state of mind.  Dale would be better advised seeking out David Owen for a view rather than having a late night debate with someone he clearly does not get on with.

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  1. Sorry Howard, I thought I'd commented upon this excellent post after I read it thoroughly. Megalomanic tendencies will cover it all don't you think? But I shall research hubris syndrome later today.

  2. I will be interested in your views. Hopefully Dale will pick this up as well.