‘Greenstein, Fred I. 1969. Personality and Politics: Problems of Evidence, Inference, and
Conceptualization. Chicago: Markham Publishing Company.’
1. ‘This classic in the area of political psychology lays out the theoretical premises behind when personality is pivotal in politics. Greenstein observed that personality: (1)
increases to the degree that the environment admits of restructuring; (2) varies with
the actor’s location in the environment; and (3) varies with the personal strengths and
weaknesses of the actor (1969, p. 42).
2. ‘Chapter Two elaborates on the five objections to personality and politics research. The first two, random distribution in institutional roles and the importance of social
characteristics, are dismissed by Greenstein as misconceptions. Greenstein’s reaction
to the first objection: ” First, even if the personality composition of any group is
randomly determined, random assortment would not in fact guarantee the same
personality composition in the membership of all institutions of a given type” (1969,
3. ‘In terms of rebutting social characteristics, Greenstein asserted: ” social and psychological characteristics are in no way mutually exclusive. They do not compete
as candidates for explanation of social behavior, but rather are complementary. Social
characteristics can cause psychological characteristics; they are not substitutes for
psychological characteristics” (Greenstein, 1969, p. 36).
4. ‘Greenstein defended three of the criticisms as partially correct—how much impact leaders have, when leader variability matters, and under what circumstances that ego-
defensive needs will ” manifest themselves in political behavior” (Greenstein, 1969,
p.36). Thus, he advanced the idea of action dispensability (” What are the circumstances
under which the actions of single individuals are likely to have a greater or lesser effect
on the cause of events?” ) and actor dispensability (” Under what circumstances do
different actors (placed in common situations) vary in their behavior and under what
circumstances is their behavior uniform?” ) (Greenstein, 1969, p. 41: 47).
5. ‘Chapter Three discussed the processes of single-actor and typological personality diagnosis that have been described as three overlapping but analytically separate
operations: phenomenology, dynamics and genesis of personality. These operations
were used to analyze the personality of Woodrow Wilson.
6. ‘Phenomenology refers to those ” observed behavioral phenomena upon which all further analysis depends—the regular patterns of behavior that the individual or type
exhibits under varying environmental conditions” (Greenstein, 1969, p. 65). In dynamics,
the accounts of personality move beyond ” faithful characterizations of ‘symptomology’
into diagnosis” where the focus shifts away from phenomenological to dynamic ”
interpretation” (Greenstein, 1969, p. 65). Finally, the operation of genesis describes
those elements of personality dynamics that help the analyst better understand the
political figure (Greenstein, 1969, p. 66).
7. ‘Greenstein’s analysis of Wilson is incisive. To the scholar, Wilson ” could on some occasions be enormously ingratiating to other political actors whose support he
needed…He assiduously curried the favor of William Jennings Bryan” during his rise to
power (Greenstein, 1969, p. 74). Greenstein references George and George’s work on
Wilson. The George’s drew heavily upon Lasswell’s earlier work Power and Personality,
which used psychodynamic theory to illustrate Wilson’s personality flaws. For the
Georges, ” Wilson’s compulsive need to dominate [politics]…served the defensive
function of protecting him from his deep-seated ‘low self-estimates’” (Greenstein,
1969, p. 77).
8. ‘The Georges found that ” Wilson’s idealization of his father involved reaction- formation…[that] was never tempered by disagreement or criticism” (Grenstein, 1969, p.
84). Long after his father’s death, Wilson dwelled on his father’s superiority, while
displaying ” an arrogant sense of superiority to the political figures with whom he
was associated” (Greenstein, 1969, p. 84). Is it any wonder that he had trouble with
Senator Henry Cabot Lodge over the ratification of the Versailles Treaty?’