References to “hubris” appear to have been increasingly apparent since the second Iraq War in 2003 and the recent (current) global economic crisis. Yet it is a strange choice of word as a description of the behaviours of previously highly respected individuals in the wake of actions or decisions that later turned out to have disastrous consequences. Hubris, therefore, seems to be a malaise of the powerful, the successful and the intelligent which causes them to over-reach themselves and leads them, their reputations and, worse, their dependants, organisations and even nations to humiliation, disaster and ruin. The media and former friends and colleagues of the victim all enjoy the luxury of retrospective wisdom, citing hubris as having caused the fall of one so previously admired. Explanations focus on over-confidence, excessive ambition, an inability to listen to advice, or to be too ready to hear the contributions of sycophantic subordinates and advisors — or simply that they have grown “too big for their boots”. But these are not explanations; they do not provide us with meaningful insights as to why apparently highly able, successful and respected individuals should, so frequently, commit themselves (and others) to courses of action that turn out to have been reckless, foolish, illegal or simply stupid.
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- Making Sense of Hubris
Graham M. Robinson
- Palgrave Macmillan UK
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