Perceptions of Power

Source: Wall Street Journal

WSJ george martin

WSJ asks six luminaries to weigh in on a single topic. This month: Power

Excerpt from George R. R. Martin:

“Power struggles seem to be omnipresent in every field of human endeavor, extending all the way up and down society. We assume that power has a certain reality. Apart from comic books, where Superman has the power to fly, the only power real human beings have is the power they think they have.

You see that sometimes in the collapse of a society. Why did the Soviet Union fall? Because one day the Kremlin gave orders and the soldiers said no, and the whole thing fell apart. It’s a fundamental truth that I think Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. , hit on, that power depends on the obedience of the less powerful.

A leader is powerful only when he says jump and people jump. He has no actual power to make them jump. It’s their belief that he has power. It’s an illusion, a shadow on the wall. And sometimes people stop jumping, and then the world changes.”  [emphasis added]

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