George W. Bush and the Redemptive Dream: A Psychological Portrait

George W. Bush and the Redemptive Dream: A Psychological Portrait

by Dan P. McAdams

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George W. Bush remains a highly controversial figure, a man for whom millions of Americans have very strong feelings. Dan McAdams' book offers an astute psychological portrait of Bush, one of the first biographies to appear since he left office as well as the first to draw systematically from personality science to analyze his life. McAdams, an international leader in


George W. Bush remains a highly controversial figure, a man for whom millions of Americans have very strong feelings. Dan McAdams' book offers an astute psychological portrait of Bush, one of the first biographies to appear since he left office as well as the first to draw systematically from personality science to analyze his life. McAdams, an international leader in personality psychology and the narrative study of lives, focuses on several key events in Bush's life, such as the death of his sister at age 7, his commitment to sobriety on his 40th birthday, and his reaction to the terrorist attacks of September 11, and his decision to invade Iraq. He sheds light on Bush's life goals, the story he constructed to make sense of his life, and the psychological dynamics that account for his behavior. Although there are many popular biographies of George W. Bush, McAdams' is the first true psychological analysis based on established theories and the latest research. Short and focused, written in an engaging style, this book offers a truly penetrating look at our forty-third president.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In exploring Bush's reasons for invading Iraq, narrative psychologist McAdams (The Person) taps behavioral science to probe the 43rd president's psyche, resulting in a fascinating, fun, and highly unusual profile. McAdams sees the answer in a "perfect psychological storm" of personality traits that came together at a particular moment in history. The first-born son of a privileged family, Bush is a "blazing extravert" who, after the death of his sister, comforted his grieving mother with humorous antics. Though he entered adulthood as a hard drinking and carousing frat boy, marriage and a religious transformation helped him conquer alcoholism and catapulted him into the White House, the redemptive turnaround narrative that Americans admire. Bush also, however, according to McAdams, exhibited a "low openness to experience" that made him unreceptive to other points of view. McAdams upends the conventional wisdom regarding Bush's relationship with his father, finding that the son most often expressed admiration and love, turning the invasion of Iraq into more of a demonstration of filial devotion than an attempt to upstage his dad. Pay no heed to the ponderous title; this accessible and engaging psychobiography easily moves into a must-read tier of works on George W. Bush. (Dec.)
From the Publisher
"A new look at one of the most controversial presidents in history. McAdams uses psychology in a compelling way, to provide genuine insight without veering into far-out speculations or dubious theories." — Steven Pinker, Harvard College Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and Author, How the Mind Works and The Stuff of Thought

"Love him or hate him, no one can deny that George W. Bush had an extraordinary impact on world events in the first decade of the 21st century. In this incisive and persuasive personality analysis, Dan McAdams goes deep into the psyche of the man who called himself 'The Decider.' Exploring Bush's enduring character traits, the influence of his family background on his goals and beliefs, and his intense identification with the quintessential American narrative of recovery and redemption, McAdams weaves together a compelling explanation for why this president went to war in Iraq." — Jefferson A. Singer, Professor of Psychology, Connecticut College

"Dan McAdams is one of the most thoughtful scholars around. His scientific research in psychology has helped shape the ways we think about personality. In George W. Bush and the Redemptive Dream, McAdams applies his considerable knowledge of psychology, history, and politics to examine the psyche of Bush and his decision to invade Iraq in 2003. In many ways, this book reflects a new genre that bridges cutting-edge scientific psychology with more traditional biographical analysis. This beautifully-written book will help anyone to better understand the enigma that is George W. Bush." — James W. Pennebaker, Regents Centennial Professor and Chair of Psychology, University of Texas, Austin

"This is a compelling and extraordinary book by an eminent scholar of personality science. It explores the enduring traits, core projects, and emerging life narrative of George W. Bush, and the profound impact these forces had on Bush's decision to invade Iraq. Although George W. Bush 'didn't do nuance,' Dan McAdams does. His book on Bush II sets a new standard for psychologically informed analysis of historical figures. It is meticulously researched and beautifully written: a splendid accomplishment." — Brian R. Little, Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus, Carleton University, and Visiting Fellow, Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge University

"Incisive, nuanced, scholarly, and balanced, George W. Bush and the Redemptive Dream is McAdams at his enthralling best. By illuminating what is already known about Bush with unparalleled psychological insight and the latest findings in personality science, McAdams paints a rich and compelling portrait of what makes George W. Bush tick. This beautifully written book is indispensible for understanding the psychology of the man whose actions, more than anyone else's, shaped the beginning of the new millennium." — Sam Gosling, Professor of Psychology, University of Texas, Austin, and Author, Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You

"Psychology's leading researcher of adult development, Dan McAdams, has written a fascinating study of George W. Bush's psychological development, worldview, and decision-making style. Applying psychological theories that are usually seen as disparate, McAdams traces how key events at each stage of Bush's life contributed to his character as president and his decision to invade Iraq. McAdams's careful analysis undercuts liberal denigration and conservative adulation." — Gary S. Gregg, Professor of Psychology, Kalamazoo College

"In his highly illuminating account of George W. Bush, McAdams not only deepens our psychological understanding of the 43rd President but also provides the reader with a fascinating account of the newly emerging science of personality." — Paul Wink, Class of 1949 Chair in Ethics, Professor and Chair of Psychology, Wellesley College

"Dan McAdams's goal in writing this book was to develop a fair-minded psychological analysis of George W. Bush, based on the most solid scientific findings of contemporary personality psychology. He has achieved that goal and then some. He writes with an easy grace, shows a thorough command of the relevant psychological literature, and knows pretty much all there is to know about Bush's life history. His concise picture of the 'perfect psychological storm' that led Bush to invade and occupy Iraq will likely make sense to most readers, regardless of their political orientation." — Alan C. Elms, Emeritus Professor of Psychology, University of California, Davis

"A tour de force for Dan McAdams and for the study of lives." — Avril Thorne, Professor and Chair of Psychology, University of California, Santa Cruz

"This book masterfully illustrates the disparate elements of George W. Bush's personality and their contextual development over the course of his lifetime in an accessible, clear prose style. McAdams drives home the main message of his ever-expanding oeuvre on the redemptive self and its Christian origins, namely that it is inextricably linked to generativity in adults." — Religious Studies Review

Product Details

Oxford University Press
Publication date:
Inner Lives
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Barnes & Noble
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3 MB

Meet the Author

Dan P. McAdams is professor of psychology and professor of human development and social policy at Northwestern University. He is a Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence at Northwestern, and he is also the director of the Foley Center for the Study of Lives, an interdisciplinary research enterprise at Northwestern that studies personality and social development in the adult years. An international leader in personality psychology and the narrative study of lives, McAdams is the author of over 150 scientific articles and chapters and the editor of 9 books. In addition, he has written five books: Power, Intimacy, and the Life Story: Personological Inquries into Identity (1985, Dorsey Books, Guilford Press); Intimacy: The Need To Be Close (1989, Doubleday); The Person: An Introduction to the Science of Personality Psychology (five editions: 1990, 1994, 2000, 2006, 2009; Harcourt Brace, John Wiley & Sons); The Stories We Live By: Personal Myths and the Making of the Self (1993, William Morrow, Guilford Press); and The Redemptive Self: Stories Americans Live By (2006, Oxford University Press). The Redemptive Self won the American Psychological Association's 2006 William James Award for best-general interest book in psychology (across all subfields), and it won the 2007 Association of American Publishers Award for Excellence in Professional and Scholarly Publishing, top prize in the area of "Psychology and Cognitive Science." The Redemptive Self was also recognized through the 2006 Theodore Sarbin Award, awarded by the American Psychological Association to Professor McAdams for contributions in theoretical and philosophical psychology. Professor McAdams is also the winner of the 1989 Henry A. Murray Award from the Society of Personality and Social Psychology for excellence in personality research and the study of lives. His work has been featured many times in The New York Times and in a number of other high-profile media outlets.

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