Why Some Politicians Are More Dangerous Than Others
July 2011, Polity
Politicians and the political process, even in ostensibly democratic countries, can be deadly. James Gilligan has discovered a devastating truth that has been "hiding in plain sight" for the past century - namely, that when America's conservative party, the Republicans, have gained the presidency, the country has repeatedly suffered from epidemics of violent death. Rates of both suicide and homicide have sky-rocketed. The reasons are all too obvious: rates of every form of social and economic distress, inequality and loss - unemployment, recessions, poverty, bankruptcy, homelessness also ballooned to epidemic proportions. When that has happened, those in the population who were most vulnerable have "snapped", with tragic consequences for everyone.
These epidemics of lethal violence have then remained at epidemic levels until the more liberal party, the Democrats, regained the White House and dramatically reduced the amount of deadly violence by diminishing the magnitude of the economic distress that had been causing it.
This pattern has been documented since 1900, when the US government first began compiling vital statistics on a yearly basis, and yet it has not been noticed by anyone until now except with regard to suicide in the UK and Australia, where a similar pattern has been described.
This book is a path-breaking account of a phenomenon that has implications for every country that presumes to call itself democratic, civilized and humane, and for all those citizens, voters and political thinkers who would like to help their country move in that direction.
Introduction: Murder Mysteries 1
1 A Matter of Life and Death 11
2 What Kind of a Man Are You? 39
3 Nothing Succeeds Like Failure 51
4 The Shame of It All 97
5 Who Wants To Be Redundant? 117
6 Red States, Blue States: Honor vs. Guilt 123
Conclusion: The Mystery Solved: What Is To Be Done? 155
How Accurate and Complete Are the Data? 195
Figures and tables 205
New York Review of Books
"Gilligan offers far more than a statistical argument. In
Republican ideology, dependence is associated with dishonour and
shame. Gilligan offers a compelling model of how this ethic
triggers intolerable feelings of being discounted, disrespected, or
'dissed' that issue in violence."
Times Literary Supplement
"Amazingly, until this book appeared nobody had spotted this trend."
"By fusing together the scientific rigour of evidence-based medicine with a wealth of theoretical insights from the social sciences, Gilligan’s book (provides) new and exciting ways of understanding the social and economic determinants of health and well-being."
LSE Politics Blog
"Gilligan's book deserves a wide audience. It is inspiring to
find a social/behavioral study that may turn out to be of great
importance, and one that may also prove useful in furthering
investigation of the emotion of shame."
"Irrefutable evidence that the politics of the right can
actually kill you."
"If you believe politicians can make a difference then these
statistics will confirm your beliefs."
Sydney Morning Herald
"The Republicans and Conservatives are bad for your health. They
should come with the same warning that took years to become
emblazoned on cigarette packets. This book goes a long way in
working towards that."
"For everyone interested in American politics, this book is a
must. It will change the way you think about our two major
"James Gilligan has given us a new formula for thinking about
American politics: smoking is to cancer as republicans are to
suicides and homicides. His findings are not guesswork or political
wishful thinking, but based on old-fashioned digging through
thousands of pages about data. Gilligan is telling us, in essence,
that how we vote is a life or death decision."
Seymour M. Hersh
"A hugely important book, which needs to be widely known - not
simply for its impact on voting, but also to make politicians more
aware of the consequences of their actions and the non-voting
public more aware of the importance of politics."
Richard Wilkinson, author of The Spirit Level