In Sickness and In Power: Illness in Heads of Government During the Last 100 years

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9780413777690: In Sickness and In Power: Illness in Heads of Government During the Last 100 years

Revised and Updated Edition for 2016 including a new chapter entitled Hubris Syndrome in the Military. In Sickness and In Power looks at illness in heads of government, business and military leaders between 1901 and 2007. It considers how illness and therapy - both physical and mental - affect the decision-making of heads of government, engendering folly, in the sense of foolishness, stupidity or rashness. Owen is particularly interested in leaders who were not ill in the conventional sense, whose cognitive faculties functioned well, but who developed a 'hubristic syndrome' that powerfully affected their performance and their actions. As we learn here, they suffer a loss of capacity and become excessively self-confident and contemptuous of advice that runs counter to what they believe, or sometimes of any advice at all. Long fascinated with the inter-relationship between politics and medicine, David Owen uses his deep knowledge of both to look at sickness in political leaders. Owen expertly scrutinises such diverse political personalities as Sir Anthony Eden at the time of Suez in 1956; John F. Kennedy and the Bay of Pigs fiasco in 1961; the last Shah of Iran; and President Mitterrand of France who suffered from prostate cancer.The author also devotes a chapter to the hubristic behaviour and relationship between President Bush and Prime Minister Blair. The book ends by outlining some of the safeguards that society needs to address as a consequence of illness in heads of government.

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About the Author:

David Owen (Lord Owen) is Chancellor of the University of Liverpool and sits as a crossbencher in the House of Lords. He was the British Foreign Secretary under Prime Minister James Callaghan from 1977 to 1979. He co-founded the Social Democratic Party in 1981 and led it from 1983 to 1990. As EU negotiator, he collaborated with Cyrus Vance, former US Secretary of State, to put forward the Vance-Owen Peace Plan for Bosnia in 1993. Before entering politics, he practiced as a clinical neurologist and psychiatrist at St. Thomas's Hospital in London. Lord Owen was Minister of State for Health from 1974 to 1976. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and sits on the board of Abbott Laboratories. He is the author of eleven books, including The Hubris Syndrome: Bush, Blair and the Intoxication of Power, In Sickness and in Health: The Politics of Medicine, Face the Future (Praeger Publishers), and A Future That Will Work (Praeger Publishers).


"In Sickness and in Power contains ... substantial case histories showing that bodily disorders affecting leaders have had major political consequences. ... There is certainly added value in David Owen having known many of the recent figures personally. ... The one scoop in this material is the author's access to Eden's hitherto closed medical records. ... In the author's view, greater honesty and openness about the leader's health -- as shown by Eisenhower -- is the best safeguard against the adverse consequences of illness, whether mental or physical.' " - Times Literary Supplement

"This is an interesting work. It is not primarily a medical treatise, but instead a provocative observation of the world of politics. It is an important commentary on the relationship between personality and behavior and the character and consequences of leadership." - The New England Journal of Medicine

"David Owen's fascinating In Sickness and in Power is a study of the medical conditions of rulers ranging from Anthony Eden to JFK and from the Shah of Persia to Francois Mitterrand. Which is more alarming: the fact that they all suffered from illnesses that would have debarred them from top-level positions in almost any other walk of life, or the systematic deception that concealed their true condition from the people they led? A book to give you sleepless nights" - The New Statesman

"In Sickness and in Power examines how both specific diseases and intoxication with power have shaped major decisions by world leaders in the twentieth century....For many heads of state, the experience of being in power brings about psychological changes that can lead to grandiosity, narcissism, and irresponsible behavior. Leaders suffering from this political hubris syndrome believe that they are capable of great deeds, that great deeds are expected of them, that they know what is best under all circumstances, and that they operate beyond the bounds of ordinary morality....Owen is not the first to observe that hubris sometimes overtakes leaders, but he is the first to argue that it is a pathological condition that requires serious study, especially of the ways in which is affects decision-making....Owen's book should be read by all practicing physicians responsible for the health of political leaders--and by the leaders themselves." - Foreign Affairs

"Former British foreign secretary and physician Lord David Owen (Univ. of Liverpool) presents a wealth of material in this study of illness in political leaders from 1900-2007...Overall, this is a timely intervention in an overlooked field of inquiry...Highly recommended. All levels/libraries." - Choice

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