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Psychopathology and World Politics

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 April, 2012, 12:00am

Psychopathology and World Politics
by Ralph Pettman
World Scientific

The list of apparently 'unhinged' national leaders is lengthy. The 20th century gave us the maddest and baddest of all time, Adolf Hitler. But there were many others.

Among them, Jean Bedel Bokassa (or, to give him his full title: 'His Imperial Majesty Bokassa the First, Emperor of Central Africa by the will of the Central African people, united within the national political party, the Movement for the Social Evolution of Black Africa'). Myanmar's crackpot dictator, Ne Win, who changed the denominations of his country's banknotes to his lucky numbers: 15, 35, 45, 75 and 90. Alleged cannibal Idi Amin of Uganda. And the absurdly vain, self-proclaimed 'Genius of the Carpathians', Nicolae Ceausescu of Romania, who died in a hail of bullets fired by his own soldiers, whose loyalty and patience he had finally exhausted by 1989.

This century has seen nutty dictators going out of fashion. Muammar Gaddafi fatally overstayed his welcome last year. Myanmar's Thein Sein is gradually yielding to the people's choice, Aung San Suu Kyi. And that scion of the rotten house of Assad, Bashar al-Assad, is losing the plot, and his grip on power in Syria.

So what exactly happens when a leader's mind ceases to function in a proper or normal manner? How does this impinge on world affairs? What is to be done, for example, when a statesman ceases to act in a seemingly sane fashion and yet still commands the loyalty of those who keep him or her in power? What to do when a leader's advisers have a less than sufficient grasp of political realties themselves? How can we react when a whole society goes insane, as in Pol Pot's Cambodia?

Professor Ralph Pettman is a member of the editorial board of advisers of Global Change, Peace and Security, and on the advisory boards of International Politics and Religion. He brings a wealth of insight to this topic.

While not answering all the questions it presents this book is a valuable contribution to the field of how international politics intertwines with modern psychology. It could also help in understanding current world affairs and with the issue of conflict resolution.

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