SURVIVING POWER: The Experience of Power--Exercising It and Giving It Up by Xandra Kayden

SURVIVING POWER: The Experience of Power--Exercising It and Giving It Up

Email this review


Kayden (a Research Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government) offers an unusual look at the many profound ways in which great power affects individuals who possess it, and then lose it. Through interviews with those out of power--including former U.N. ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, longtime Boston mayor Kevin White, and high Nixon Administration officials--Kayden adds a valuable personal dimension to her examination. Great power, we learn, transforms. Those who come to it ""cross the border,"" as Kayden puts it, and inevitably experience deep changes in their private relationships, attitudes, and identity. Kayden focuses first on the experience of having power--its meaning for the power-holder--and the strictures upon and ramifications of power in both the public and private arenas. The author argues compellingly that men and women are, in general, markedly different power-holders. Power, for instance, might give a woman a fear of being unfeminine or cause an uneasiness with the deference due her. Organizational styles, too, differ by sex--""Women in power are apt to ignore the linear paths of power and to behave in a more collegial manner."" Kayden then goes on, in the book's most original contribution, to deal with the individual's losing and ""surviving"" power. With the loss of power, she explains, the individual crosses back over the border, leaving behind heightened status, special prerogatives, etc.--forcing a self-confrontation and requiring the ability to work ha a diminished capacity. A key to surviving is ""separating one's identity from the role""--generally a most difficult task for the once-powerful. An original and worthy contribution to the study of power.

Pub Date: Jan. 15th, 1989
Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan