The Power Paradox

The Power Paradox: How We Gain and Lose Influence is a 2016 book by Dacher Keltner. In it, Keltner redefines the definition of power. Many of us may consider power to be something that the strong take by force, or using machiavellian methods. Keltner says this view is entirely incorrect: power is something that is given to us by the group because we forward the group’s interests.

This makes sense as a natural selection factor. Groups would want to reward those individuals who put the group’s needs before their own. They do this by bestowing power on that individual in the hope that they will continue to do so, and be able to bring greater gains.

Unfortunately, there is a danger. John Dalberg-Acton was correct when he said…

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely

Gaining power causes us to forget about putting the group first. It causes us to forget about the reason we were given power in the first place. And what is given, can be taken away. Time after time, people come crashing down because they forgot why they were afforded such status in society.

Keltner also discusses the negative effects of not having power. For example, minority communities that face discrimination and are not given an equal standing in society. Even adjusting for all of the disadvantages they may encounter, merely the fact of being powerless reduces their life expectancy by a measurable amount.

The lesson is clear: stay focused on other people. Not only will you improve their lives, but it is in your best interest as well.



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This entry was posted on Wednesday, January 11th, 2017 at 10:16 am and is filed under Books. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.