cover image Corruptible: Who Gets Power and How It Changes Us

Corruptible: Who Gets Power and How It Changes Us

Brian Klaas. Scribner, $28 (336p) ISBN 978-1-982154-09-7

Political scientist Klaas (The Despot’s Accomplice) investigates in this illuminating study whether power corrupts or corrupt people seek power, and why humans seem “somehow drawn to giving power to the wrong people for the wrong reasons.” Drawing from sociology, psychology, anthropology, and evolutionary biology, Klaas examines how innovations in warfare and agriculture contributed to the rise of hierarchical societies between 11,000 and 5,000 years ago, and illustrates theories about the nature of power with intriguing historical cases. For example, the contrast between King Leopold II’s progressive reforms in Belgium, where he “faced accountability and oversight,” and his barbaric treatment of villagers in the Congo, where “he was a tyranny of one and his atrocities were hidden” from those who kept him accountable back home highlights the role that systems play in guiding individual behavior. Elsewhere, Klaas compares police department recruiting techniques in the U.S. and New Zealand to show that an emphasis on weaponry instead of community care in the U.S. attracts those more likely to use force. His concrete suggestions for how organizations can reduce corruption include expanding the pool of applicants for leadership positions, rotating employees through different departments, and auditing decision-making processes. Enriched by colorful case studies and lucid explanations of academic research, this is a nuanced and entertaining guide to the meaning and function of power. Agent: Anthony Mattero, CAA. (Nov.)