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On The Psychology Of Military Incompetence (Pimlico) [Kindle Edition]

Norman F Dixon
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

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Book Description

This unique and penetrating book surveys 100 years of military inefficiency from the Crimean War, through the Boer conflict, to the disasterous campaigns of the First World War and the calamities of the Second. It examines the social psychology of military organizations, provides case studies of individual commanders and identifies an alarming pattern in the causes of military disaster.

Product Description


"Shocking and provocative" New Society "An absorbing, perceptive and often very funny study in human frailty... Stimulating and almost invariably provocative" -- Lord Chalfont Listener "An original, scientifically impressive and fascinating book... This is a minor classic" Tablet "It should be compulsory reading wherever future officers are selected or trained, and deserves a very wide readership among psychologists and laymen" -- John Nicholson New Society

Book Description

'An intelligent man's guide to the defects of the military mind... Its conclusions are incontrovertible.' Alan Sillitoe

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1093 KB
  • Print Length: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Digital; New Ed edition (30 Sept. 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #33,011 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Book on Management In The World 25 Mar. 2003
Everyone who manages anyone should be required to read this book. By focussing on the military Dixon has written a book crammed with examples that show the drastic consequences of incompetence.
In management situations it's seldom a matter of life and death (despite the way some bosses act) but the consequences are still there: demotivated, under-utilised, confused and stressed staff.
So if you're the boss and this sounds familiar you should read this book and learn it's lessons.
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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly cogent and convincing. 29 Sept. 2004
By A Customer
The author's central hypotheses is that incompetent decision making stems not so much from a lack of technical knowledge or theory, but rather personal inadequacies that prevent someone in a leadship role from making appropriate decisions under pressure,i.e. they freeze up.
Also discussed are the possibities of why such personality types are attracted to those roles involving such high pressure decision making, where the consequences of the wrong decision can be dire.
Unlike a lot of 'psychology' books, the author presents a critcal and convincing chain of reasoning to support his hypotheses.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
I found this book highly readable, entertaining and illuminating. Although Dixon focuses solely on the military in analysing the origins, pathology and disastrous consequences of the Authoritarian Personality, I believe his thesis has a universal application to ANY hierarchical organization, whether it is in education, business, religion, the public service or even supposedly benign not-for-profit groups. I'm sure that anyone who has suffered under dysfunctional, irrational and even destructive "managers", and wondered why, will have many of their questions answered. They will understand what makes a man like The Office's David Brent tick.

The only pity is that the very people who should read this book won't. That would be like a flat-earther or creation fundamentalist picking up a tome entitled "On the Psychology of Scientific Denial".

One can only hope that those charged with selecting and promoting staff in any context will read it, and so be able to identify those with the potential to cause catastrophic harm to their people and organizations. Professionals in child raising and education will find it valuable in understanding how these sad and stunted but dangerous authoritarian types are created and how, I sincerely hope, they can be helped to become less menacing to themselves and those unfortunates unlucky enough to work under them.
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A "Must Read" for anyone working in an hierarchy. 12 April 2002
By A Customer
I was lent this book by a retired friend who had risen to a high level in the RAF. He told me that it had been required reading at Staff College.
As soon as I finished it I immediately bought my own copy (from Amazon!) and tried to persuade as many of my work colleagues as possible to read it.
It is a study of the authoritarian character and its need to rise in an hierachy. A rise that is usually totally unwarranted. Just to limit this to a military context is to miss the chief benefit of the book. It should be required reading in every management school.
It also has the advantage of being a very entertaining book (despite the title).
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Revealing and insightful - a must read 2 Jan. 2007
This book contains some superb information regarding the personality types behind military success and failure, along with considerable evidence and anecdotal support. Dr Dixon's knowledge of both psychology and military history is breathtaking, and his prose is precise and warm. This is not a difficult book to read or enjoy at all, in spite of its subject matter and the academic nature of the subject. Very highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Dixon does a good job of examining both social and individual psychological / structural reasons for military incompetence. The author does not folow the approach of finding individual scapegoats, or blaming the individual's knowledge or prowess for failure but looks for systemic explanations for failure. These are to be found in the socialisation of people who are drawn to the military career (individual psychology), reinforced by the organisation of military establishments.

It's a very solid piece of systemic research and dos a good job of showing the interdependencies and causal loops between individuals drawn to the authoritarian organisation and those individuals, once in power, cementing the authoritarianism further. On top of that Dixon also shows a good case of how developmental psychology of a type of individual influences the development of institutions.

The book starts with a section on case studies of military disasters, follows on to the main thesis of the systemic issues bringing about military incompetence and closes with a section on trying to fit individual commandersi nto the framework - the way they are chosen the framework is largely confirmed.

The book is also written in a light, witty style and the author will probably not rub many people the wrong way even if they find some of the theory preposterous (not uncommon if unkind things are being said about you or an organisation you identify yourself with) because of his self deprecating manner.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Mandatry reading in the Military Academies
Published 1 month ago by Raul Sousa Machado
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant analysis of the senior commanders of the two World ...
A brilliant analysis of the senior commanders of the two World Wars. He names the good, the bad and the indifferent after looking at their performance in detail. Read more
Published 4 months ago by cyril holcroft
5.0 out of 5 stars A highly recommended read, even if you're not planning to apply ...
Expanded my thinking on a whole lot of issues, at a strategic, tactical and human level. A highly recommended read, even if you're not planning to apply for staff college.
Published 6 months ago by Lincoln
4.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening and thought provoking
Having worked for many years in a hierarchical organisation I was drawn to this book in an attempt to better understand some of things I have witnessed and through a general... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Oddjob
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply the Best
I have read numerous books on the military. I am ex military myself and know from too much personal experience how when being lead by idiots, even intelligent ones, how dangerous... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Grahame J. Hadden
4.0 out of 5 stars Very In-Depth
This book is quite academic and in-depth in its psychology analysis. If you can get through this it is a very informative book.
Published 10 months ago by Mr. R. A. Irvine
3.0 out of 5 stars Military Imcompetence
My son requested this as part of his birthday present so I ordered it for him from Amazon
He has read it
Published 16 months ago by Heather Wilson
5.0 out of 5 stars An eye opener.
The author was a serving soldier with an MBE and is now an eminent psychologist so he is very well qualified on the subject. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Mr. Peter Crosland
4.0 out of 5 stars Incompetence contunued
Interesting ideas which unfortunately have continued to hold true in more recent wars, especially Afghanistan Interesting ideas which unfortunately have continued to hold true in... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Rodney James Stuart
5.0 out of 5 stars Compulsory reading for anybody planning to join the military or start...
There are very good reasons why this has been in print for so long and praised by so many eminent people. It is well written with excellent analysis from one who knows his subject. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Amazon Customer
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