Department of Political Science


Does power corrupt or are corrupt people drawn to power?

21 February 2022, 6:00 pm–7:15 pm

book launch image

Does power corrupt or are corrupt people drawn to power? Are tyrants the products of bad systems or are they just bad people? And why do we give power to awful people?

This event is free.

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Abi Turner

In this talk about his new book, Corruptible: Who Gets Power and How It Changes Us, UCL associate professor of global politics Brian Klaas draws on over 500 interviews with some of the world’s top leaders – from the noblest to the dirtiest – including presidents, war criminals, cult leaders, terrorists, psychopaths, and dictators to reveal the most surprising workings of power: how children can predict who is going to win an election based just on the faces of politicians; why narcissists make more money; what makes a certain species of bee more corrupt than others; whether a thirst for power is a genetic condition; and why being the second in command is in fact the smartest choice.

From scans of psychopathic brains, to the effects of power on monkey drug use, Klaas weaves cutting-edge research with astonishing encounters (including a ski lesson with the former viceroy of Iraq, tea with a former UK prime minister, and breakfast with Madagascar’s yogurt kingpin president). Written by the creator of the award-winning Power Corrupts podcast, Corruptible challenges our basic assumptions about power, from the board room to the war room, and provides a roadmap for getting better leaders at every level. 

Brian Klaas grew up in Minnesota, earned his DPhil at Oxford, and is now an associate professor of global politics at University College London. He is also a weekly columnist for The Washington Post, host of the award-winning Power Corrupts podcast, and frequent guest on national television. Klaas has conducted field research across the globe, interviewing despots, CEOs, torture victims, dissidents, cult leaders, criminals, and everyday power abusers. He has also advised major politicians and organizations including NATO, the European Union, and Amnesty International. He is the author of four books, including the most recent: Corruptible: Who Gets Power and How It Changes Us.

Moderator: Ian Dunt

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