Leaders as Bad Men and Victims

Karen J. Brison

in Just Talk

Published by University of California Press

Published in print September 1992 | ISBN: 9780520077003
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520912182 | DOI:
Leaders as Bad Men and Victims

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This chapter explores the conditions that create an ambivalent attitude toward leaders and cause them to do things such as haranguing the audience in meetings but then mysteriously “forgetting” their own injunctions afterwards, or spreading rumors which they publicly deny. It then looks at cases from other areas and suggests that the social conditions in small isolated communities make it difficult for anyone to be a strong leader, arguing that gossip, rumor, and innuendo constrain leaders in Melanesia in many ways. First, the atmosphere of suspicion that goes along with rumor and innuendo helps foster the much-noted “ambivalence about power” of Melanesian communities. Suspicions about leaders are part of a pervasive distrust of everyone that, in turn, stems from a real preference for devious and hidden strategies. Second, distrust of leaders leads to backbiting and slander.

Keywords: leaders; social conditions; communities; gossip; rumor; innuendo; Melanesia; suspicion; ambivalence; power

Chapter.  13251 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology

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