Book Reviews

Ian Hughes adds new scientific insight to one of the deepest conundrums of politics: that positions of power appeal to the narcissistic, paranoid psychopaths among us, with catastrophic results for humanity. His argument that human institutions, particularly liberal democracy, are needed to constrain the worst of human nature, is profound and (needless to say) timely. Disordered Minds is sometimes disturbing, but it is consistently fascinating, and ultimately constructive and hopeful. —Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and the author of The Better Angels of Our Nature and Enlightenment Now


Ian Hughes book Disordered Minds is essential reading in the era of Donald Trump. Hughes explains with insight and eloquence how leaders with disordered minds psychopathy, narcissism, and paranoia can take control in unstable societies and create mass movements that empower other disordered minds as well. The results can be disastrous: murder, mayhem, starvation, and war. Hughes emphasizes not only the threats of today’s mega-greed and massive inequality but solutions as well, including democratic institutions, a social democratic ethos, and the global movement towards sustainable development. —Jeffrey Sachs, University Professor, Columbia University


However they are formed, our world produces them – the psychopaths and those with narcissistic or paranoid personality disorders. You have met them, worked with them, maybe even lived with them or been victimized by them and you know just how bafflingly plausible they can be and how disastrously evil. Disordered Minds introduces us to the vast wastelands they are capable of creating when you and I, our neighbors, friends, families and colleagues fail to see just how dangerous they are, when we fail to underpin our democracies with the infrastructures capable of withstanding the onslaught of the deceptively charismatic lunatic leader. Read this exceptionally fine and accessible work of scholarship and make it your business to keep their disordered minds from disordering our universe. — Mary McAleese, Former President of Ireland


Disordered Minds offers a compelling and timely account of the dangers posed by narcissistic leaders, and provides a stark warning that the conditions in which this psychopathy flourishes – extremes of social inequality and a culture of hyper-individualism – are the hallmarks of our present age. ‘An excellent account of how malignant narcissism is evident in the lives of the great dictators, and how the conditions in which this psychopathy flourishes have returned to haunt us.’ Dr Kieran Keohane, editor of The Social Pathologies of Contemporary Civilization


This brilliant book, pulls together a big picture like no other books on psychopaths and politics I’ve seen. Further, it addresses, like no other book I’ve found, the damage that is caused when what Hughes calls “the toxic Triangle” enables psychopaths to gain power at a national level. This is a book that legislators and leaders should read. – Rob Kall, Founder of OpedNews, host of the Bottom Up Radio Show and author of Bottom Up: The Connection Revolution 


Ian Hughes’ fascinating book makes us reflect on the importance of electing leaders who are not just inspiring and effective but have a balanced personality. He has convinced me that every potential leader will one day have to publish not only their manifesto but also their psychological profile. – Graham Farmelo, Costa Book Award Winner, LA Times Book Prizes Winner and author of Churchill’s Bomb: A Hidden Story of Science, Politics and War, and The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Quantum Genius


As one of the most impressive and respected multidisciplinary scientists today, Ian Hughes in Disordered Minds gives a compelling and timely account of the dangers posed by psychologically dangerous leaders and provides a stark warning that the conditions in which this psychopathy flourishes – extremes of social inequality and a culture of hyper-individualism – are very much the hallmarks of our present age. A must read! – Professor Frederick M. Burkle, Jr, MD, Senior Fellow & Scientist, Harvard University 


Ian Hughes explains with admirable clarity and ease the ways in which dangerous individuals can emerge, flourish and dominate others in certain social and political settings, causing untold harm, violence and barbarism. In an age of right-wing ‘illiberal democracy’, xenophobic populism and the rise of politicians such as Trump in the U.S. or Le Pen in France, Disordered Minds is a diagnostic tool with which to identify both the social disorders and personality disorders that can threaten hard won democratic freedoms and undermine moves towards building a less unequal society and securing basic socio-economic rights for all. As we search for answers to explain our troubled times, we should be grateful to Ian Hughes for writing this book. – Prof. John Barry, author of The Politics of Actually Existing Unsustainability