Lord Acton would be proud. Essential for interpreting history and world events—both the provinces of tyrants—alike.

CORRUPTIBLE

WHO GETS POWER AND HOW IT CHANGES US

Brilliant study of the nature of power, explaining just why it so often renders those who hold it evil.

“Does power corrupt, or are corrupt people drawn to power?” So asks Klaas, a professor of global politics at University College London, at the outset of this absorbing survey. The answer is yes. The author delivers a provocative argument to support that claim, whether discussing the case of an African strongman who cannibalized his political enemies or the martinet president of a homeowners association. Two memorable examples come early: One is a “psychopathic pharmacist” who organized the survivors of a 1629 shipwreck on an Australian island to commit more than 100 murders at his whim. The second is a similar marooning, four centuries later, in which a group of young Tongan men lived for more than a year in a flatly organized shared-power-and-responsibility system. That all survived may have been a fluke given that we tend to create hierarchies in which “upstarts who would’ve previously faced ostracism, humiliation, or death now had a real prospect of becoming genuinely powerful.” Because power thrives on conflict, the rate of violence increases; because people fear violence, powerful people who offer security thrive. Hierarchy itself isn’t bad, writes Klaas; it’s just that it attracts corrupt people who flourish in competition. Today, “much of the world is dominated by systems that attract and promote corruptible people.” Some make no effort to disguise their corruption (Putin, Trump, etc.); others are more sophisticated. Is it nature or nurture? “We don’t know,” writes Klaas. The implications are far-reaching. For example, since police work attracts former soldiers who enjoy exercising power, real police reform will involve not hiring such people. To keep people from abusing power, those with power within a hierarchy must be rotated and kept an eye on, given that “watched people are nice people.”

Lord Acton would be proud. Essential for interpreting history and world events—both the provinces of tyrants—alike.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982154-09-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A refreshingly candid, fearless look into a model’s body of work and its impact on her identity and politics.

MY BODY

The international model embarks on a nuanced investigation of her body and identity.

Ratajkowski’s exploration of fame, self-identity, and what it means to be a “beautiful” woman is surprisingly engaging. Originally thrust into the spotlight in 2013 due to her scantily clad appearance in the music video for Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” the author eventually became known for her stances about beauty and sexuality and how they are commodified. Now that she is a wife and mother, she writes, “I feel a tenderness toward my younger self. My defensiveness and defiance are palpable to me now. What I wrote and preached then reflected what I believed at the time, but it missed a much more complicated picture. In many ways, I have been undeniably rewarded by capitalizing on my sexuality….But in other, less overt ways, I’ve felt objectified and limited by my position in the world as a so-called sex symbol.” This short book includes the juicy tidbits that avid celebrity-memoir readers seek, and the author shares how she really felt about the video shoot and how the aftermath affected her. Beyond that, the book is a reflective coming-of-age-in-the-industry tale, a story that is never maudlin but contains a few thick, murky sections. Ratajkowski attempts to break down the construction of her identity and sexuality in relation to the ever present male gaze as well as her relationships with the women in her life. The charm of this book lies in the author’s largely relatable writing, which shows the complex emotions and confusion of a young woman experiencing her sexual development and maturation into a capable adult. Admitting that the “purpose of the book is not to arrive at answers, but honestly to explore ideas I can’t help but return to,” Ratajkowski grapples directly with a host of thorny issues.

A refreshingly candid, fearless look into a model’s body of work and its impact on her identity and politics.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-81786-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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