Trump’s phony, blowhard trade war just got real, the Economic Consequences – Barry Eichengreen.

For those who observe that the economic and financial fallout from US President Donald Trump’s trade war has been surprisingly small, the best response is that a lagged effect is exactly what we should expect, just wait.

US President Donald Trump’s phony, blowhard trade war just got real.

The steel and aluminum tariffs that the Trump administration imposed at the beginning of June were important mainly for their symbolic value, not for their real economic impact. While the tariffs signified that the United States was no longer playing by the rules of the world trading system, they targeted just $45 billion of imports, less than 0.25% of GDP in an $18.5 trillion US economy.

On July 6, however, an additional 25% tariff on $34 billion of Chinese exports went into effect, and China retaliated against an equivalent volume of US exports. An angry Trump has ordered the US trade representative to draw up a list of additional Chinese goods, worth more than $400 billion, that could be taxed, and China again vowed to retaliate. Trump has also threatened to impose tariffs on $350 billion worth of imported motor vehicles and parts. If he does, the European Union and others could retaliate against an equal amount of US exports.

We are now talking about real money: nearly $1 trillion of US imports and an equivalent amount of US export sales and foreign investments.

The mystery is why the economic and financial fallout from this escalation has been so limited. The US economy is humming along. The Purchasing Managers’ Index was up again in June. Wall Street has wobbled, but there has been nothing resembling its sharp negative reaction to the Smoot-Hawley Tariff of 1930. Emerging markets have suffered capital outflows and currency weakness, but this is more a consequence of Federal Reserve interest-rate hikes than of any announcements emanating from the White House.

There are three possible explanations. First, purchasing managers and stock market investors may be betting that sanity will yet prevail. They may be hoping that Trump’s threats are just bluster, or that the objections of the US Chamber of Commerce and other business groups will ultimately register.

But this ignores the fact that Trump’s tariff talk is wildly popular with his base. One recent poll found that 66% of Republican voters backed Trump’s threatened tariffs against China. Trump ran in 2016 on a protectionist vow that he would no longer allow other countries to “take advantage” of the US. His voters expect him to deliver on that promise, and he knows it.

Second, the markets may be betting that Trump is right when he says that trade wars are easy to win. Other countries that depend on exports to the US may conclude that it is in their interest to back down. In early July, the European Commission was reportedly contemplating a tariff-cutting deal to address Trump’s complaint that the EU taxes American cars at four times the rate the US taxes European sedans.

But China shows no willingness to buckle under US pressure. Canada, that politest of countries, is similarly unwilling to be bullied; it has retaliated with 25% tariffs on $12 billion of US goods. And the EU would contemplate concessions only if the US offers some in return such as eliminating its prohibitive tariffs on imported light pickup trucks and vans and only if other exporters like Japan and South Korea go along.

Third, it could be that the macroeconomic effects of even the full panoply of US tariffs, together with foreign retaliation, are relatively small. Leading models of the US economy, in particular, imply that a 10% increase in the cost of imported goods will lead to a one-time increase in inflation of at most 0.7%.

This is simply the law of iterated fractions at work. Imports are 15% of US GDP. Multiply 0.15 by 0.10 (the hypothesized tariff rate), and you get 1.5%. Allow for some substitution away from more expensive imported goods, and the number drops below 1%. And if growth slows because of the higher cost of imported intermediate inputs, the Fed can offset this by raising interest rates more slowly. Foreign central banks can do likewise.

Still, one worries, because the standard economic models are notoriously bad at capturing the macroeconomic effects of uncertainty, which trade wars create with a vengeance. Investment plans are made in advance, so it may take, say, a year for the impact of that uncertainty to materialize, as was the case in the United Kingdom following the 2016 Brexit referendum. Taxing intermediate inputs will hurt efficiency, while shifting resources away from dynamic high-tech sectors in favor of old-line manufacturing will depress productivity growth, with further negative implications for investment. And these are outcomes that the Fed cannot easily offset.

So, for those who observe that the economic and financial fallout from Trump’s trade war has been surprisingly small, the best response is: just wait.

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Barry Eichengreen is Professor of Economics at the University of California, Berkeley, and a former senior policy adviser at the International Monetary Fund. His latest book is The Populist Temptation: Economic Grievance and Political Reaction in the Modern Era.

Breaking Down Is Waking Up. Can psychological suffering be a spiritual gateway? – Dr Russell Razzaque.

There are as many types of mental illness as there are people who suffer them.

The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 450 million people worldwide have a mental health problem.

None of us is immune from the existential worry that nags away in the back of our mind. We are all vulnerable to emotional and psychological turmoil in our lives and there is something fundamental about the human condition that makes it so.

There is something at the core of the experience of mental illness that draws sufferers towards the spiritual. Their suffering is an echo of the suffering we all contain within us.

EVERYONE NEEDS A BANISTER; a fixed point of reference from which we understand and engage with life. We need something to hold on to, so that when we’re hit by life’s inevitable disappointments, pain or traumas, we won’t fall too far into confusion, despair or hopelessness. With a weak banister we risk getting knocked off course, losing our bearings and falling prey to stress, psychological turmoil and mental illness. A strong banister will stand the test of time in an ever changing world, giving us more confidence to face the knocks and hardships of life more readily.

Understanding who we are and how we fit into the world is a quest we start at birth and continue through the whole of our lives. Sometimes these questions come to the fore, but usually they bubble away somewhere beneath the surface: ‘Who am I?’ ‘Am I normal?’ ‘Why am I here?’ ‘Is there any real point to life?’ Deep down inside we know that nothing lasts, the trees, landscapes and life around us will all one day perish, just as surely as we ourselves will, and everyone we know too. But we have evolved ways to hold this reality and the questions it hurls up at bay.

We construct banisters to help us navigate our way round this maze of pain and insecurity: a set of beliefs and lifestyles that help us form a concrete context to make sense of things and, as the saying goes, ‘keep calm and carry on’. But, for most of us, the core beliefs and lifestyles that hold us together still leave us vulnerable to instability. The sense of identity we evolve is so precarious that we’re often buffeted by life onto shaky ground. And, as a consequence, we become prone to various forms of psychological distress; indeed, for vast swathes of society this proceeds all the way to mental illness, whether that be labelled as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder or the most severe form of mental illness, psychosis.

There are as many types of mental illness as there are people who suffer them. One of the reasons I decided to specialize in psychiatry, shortly after qualifying from medical school, was that, unlike any other branch of medicine, no two people I saw ever came to me with the same issues. Although different presentations might loosely fit into different categories, there appeared to me to be as many ways of becoming mentally unwell as there were ways of being human. I have since specialized in the more severe and acute end of psychiatry. I currently work in a secure, intensive care facility but to this day, in 16 years of practice, I have never seen two cases that were exactly the same.

And the numbers just seem to be going up. In the UK today, one in four adults experiences at least one diagnosable mental health problem in any one year. In the USA, the figure is the same and this equates to just over 20 million people experiencing depression and 2.4 million diagnosed with schizophrenia, a severe form of mental illness where the individual experiences major disturbances in thoughts and perceptions. The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 450 million people worldwide have a mental health problem.

Beyond these figures, however, are all the people who struggle with various levels of stress throughout life and, all the while, carry a fear at the back of their minds, that they too may one day slide into mental illness. In my experience, this is a fear that pervades virtually every stratum of society. Rarely am I introduced as a psychiatrist to new people in a social gathering without at least some of them quietly feeling, or even explicitly reporting, that they worry that one day they are going to need my help. Such comments are often made in jest, but the genuine anxiety that underlies them is rarely far beneath the surface. There is a niggling worry at the back of many people’s minds that something might be wrong with them; that something isn’t quite right. What they don’t realize, however, in their own private suffering, is just how much company they have in this fear. Indeed, I include myself and my colleagues among them, too. None of us is immune from the existential worry that nags away in the back of our mind.

But, if we look closely, there is also another process that can be discerned underneath all of this. Deep down inside every bubbling cauldron of insecurity, we can also find the seeds of a kind of liberation. Something is just waiting to burst forth. This something is hard to define or describe in language, but it is often in our darkest hours that we can feel it the most. And the further we fall the closer to it we get. This is why, I believe, mental illness can be so powerful, not just because of the deep distress that it contains, but also because of the authentic potential that it represents.

Mental illness, however, is just one aspect of a continuum we are all on. All of us have different ways of reacting emotionally to the experiences we encounter in life and the ones that involve a high level of distress either for oneself or for others are the ones we choose to label as mental illness. And it is this end of the spectrum that l will focus on most in this book, as it is these most stark forms of distress that present us with the greatest opportunity to observe the seeds within, and thus, ultimately, learn what is in all of us too.

There may be a variety of factors that contribute to the various forms of mental illness, of course, from childhood traumas to one’s genetic make up, but as the cut-off point always centres around distress which is grounded in subjective experience the definition itself will always remain somewhat arbitrary. That’s not to say that such definitions have no utility. By helping us communicate with each other about these complex shapes of suffering, they will also help us communicate our ideas with one another about how to help reduce the suffering encountered.

That is why I use these terms in this book, but it should be noted that I attach this large caveat from the outset. Ultimately, the only person who can really describe a person’s suffering is the sufferer himself; outside that individual, the rest of us are always necessarily off the mark. What must invariably be remembered, however, is that there is no ‘them’ and ‘us’. We are all vulnerable to emotional and psychological turmoil in our lives and there is something fundamental about the human condition that makes it so.

That is why I believe, as a psychiatrist, that the best research I ever engage in is when I explore my own vulnerabilities. That is when I start to connect with threads of the suffering that my patients are undergoing too. And what I find particularly fascinating about this process is that the deeper I descend into my own world of emotional insecurity, the more I grow to appreciate an indescribable dimension to reality that so many of my patients talk about in spiritual terms, engage with, and indeed rely upon so much of the time.

In a survey of just under 7,500 people, published in early 2013, researchers from University College London found a strong correlation between people suffering mental illness and those with a spiritual perspective on life. Though the results confused many, to me they made perfect sense.

There is something at the core of the experience of mental illness that draws sufferers towards the spiritual. Their suffering is an echo of the suffering we all contain within us.

That is why I can say from the outset, and without reticence, that my insights are based largely on a subjective pathway to our shared inner world. And it is through this perspective that I have evolved what I believe is a new banister: a new way of seeing the world and being within it. It is, however, not just that my introspection has taught me about my patients, but that my patients have also taught me about myseIf. Indeed I can safely say that I have gleaned just as much from the individuals I have cared for as I have from the professionals and teachers I have learnt from.

I consider myself hugely lucky to work in a profession in which looking into myself and learning about my own inner world has been, and continues to be, a vital requirement of my work (though, it has to be said that, sadly, many within my profession do not recognize this). It has propelled me into a journey of limitless exploration of both myself and the people I care for and this has led me to ever deeper understandings of the nature of mental illness, the mind and reality itself. I have drawn upon a diverse array of wisdom along the way, and my journey has ultimately led me to construct a synthesis of modern psychiatry and ancient philosophy; of new scientific findings and old spiritual practices.

But this banister comes with a health warning, as indeed all should. Just as a set of perspectives and insights can be a useful support in times of instability, so too can overreIiance on them become counterproductive. That is why a banister needs to be held lightly. Gripping too tightly to anything in life is a recipe for exhaustion and, consequently, even greater instability.

What we need is a banister that, when held lightly, can allow us to move forward, rather than hold us back. I believe that such an understanding of reality and our place within it actually exists; it is also imperative to our survival as a species. I believe that life’s potential is far greater than most of us are ever aware of, and that our limitations are a lot more illusory than we know. In a sense I feel we are all suffering from a form of mental illness a resistance to the realization of our true nature, and to that end I humbly offer this book as a guiding rail out of the turmoil.

My Journey. An Exploration of Inner and Outer Worlds

Chapter 1

Wisdom in Bedlam

‘One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.’ Friedrich Nietzsche

MENTAL ILLNESS IS SOMETHING that most of us shy away from. Someone who exhibits behaviour or feelings that are considered out of the ordinary will, sooner or later, experience a fairly broad radius of avoidance around them. Even in psychiatric hospitals this is evident, where the less ill patients will veer away from those who are more unwell. The staff themselves are often prone to such avoidance, too. But contrary to this natural reflex that exists within all of us, moving closer to, and spending time with, someone suffering mental illness can often be quite an enlightening experience. It took me many years to realize this myself, but through the cloud of symptoms, a fascinating display of insight and depth can often be found in even the most acutely unwell. And this turned out to be true whatever the type of mental illness. The problem might be mood related for example, depression or bipolar or what we term neurotic like anxiety, panic or post-traumatic stress disorder or all the way up to the paranoia or hearing voices that we see at the most severe stage of mental illness termed psychosis. Indeed, the more severe the symptoms, the deeper the wisdom that appeared to be contained (though often hidden) within it.

A frequent observation of mine, for example, is just how perceptive the people I treat can be, regardless of the very evident turbulence that is going on inside. It is not uncommon for those who are newly admitted to share with me their impressions of the nursing and other staff on the ward with an uncanny degree of accuracy within only a few days of arrival. They’ll sometimes rapidly intuit the diverse array of temperaments, perspectives and personality traits among staff members and so have a feel for who is best to approach, avoid, or even wind up, depending on their mental state and needs at the time. It is likely that this acute sensitivity is one of the initial causes of their mental illness in the first place, but the flip side is that they have also managed to glean a lot about life from their experiences to date. This wisdom is often hidden by the symptoms of their illness, but it lurks there under the surface, often ready to flow out after a little gentle probing. I am frequently struck by the profundity of what I hear from my patients during our sessions and I often find myself feeding this same wisdom back to them even when, at the same time, they are undoubtedly experiencing and manifesting a degree of almost indescribable psychological pain.

Most of us spend our lives going to work, earning a salary, feeding our families and perhaps indulging in sport or entertainment at the weekends. Rarely are we able to step back from it all and wonder what the purpose of all this is, or whether or not we have our perspectives right. During the football World Cup one year, a patient told me that he felt such events served a deeper purpose for society, ‘It stops us thinking about the plight of the poor around the world.’ Events such as this kept us anaesthetized, he believed, so we could avoid confronting the depths of inequality and injustice around the globe, and that would ultimately enable the system that propped up the very corporations who were sponsoring these events to keep going. I had to admit that I had never thought of it that way before.

Compassion is a frequent theme I observe in those suffering mental illness, even though they are usually receiving treatment in a hospital setting because, on some level, they are failing to demonstrate compassion towards either themselves or others. I have often been moved by hearing of an older patient with a more chronic history of mental ill-health, perhaps due to repeated long-term drug use, or failure to engage with therapy, taking the time to approach a younger man, maybe admitted to hospital for the first time, and in effect tell him, ‘Don’t do what I did, son. Please learn from my mistakes.’ There are few moments, I believe, that are more powerfully therapeutic than that.

It is only in the last few years that we have discovered, after trialling a variety of treatments, that one of the most powerful interventions for what are known as the ‘negative symptoms’ of schizophrenia, is exercise. These negative features relate to a lack of energy, drive, motivation and, often, basic functional activity. Whatever the diagnostic label you choose to put on it, this can often be the most disabling part of such illnesses, and there are hardly any known treatments for it. Although an evidence base has recently evolved around the practice of regular exercise. I never quite understood why this could be until a patient one day put forward a hypothesis to me. It takes you out of your mind, he explained to me. ‘You see doc, you can’t really describe a press-up. You just do it.’ The whirlwinds within could be overcome for a few moments at least, while attention is paid, instead, to the body. Suddenly I realized why going to the gym was the highlight of his week.

A rarely described but key feature of mental illness, therefore, is just how paradoxical it can be, with the same person who is plagued by negative, obsessional or irrational thoughts, also able to demonstrate an acute and perceptive understanding of the people and world around him. It is as if one mental faculty deteriorates, only for another one to branch out somewhere else; or rather, consciousness constricts in one area only to expand in another. There is actually some quite startling experimental evidence to back this up. An interesting study was conducted by neuroscientists at Hannover Medical School in Germany and University College London, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience. It involved a hollowmask experiment. Essentially, when we are shown a two-dimensional photograph of a white face mask, it will look exactly the same whether it is pointing outwards with the convex face towards the camera or inwards with the concave inside of the face towards the camera. This is known as the hollow-mask illusion.

Such photographs were shown to a sample of control volunteers.

Sometimes the face pointed outwards, and sometimes inwards. Almost every time the hollow, inward-pointing concave face was shown to them, they misinterpreted it and reported that they were seeing the outward-pointing face of the mask instead. This miscategorization of the illusion actually occurred 99% of the time. The same experiment was then performed on a sample of individuals with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. They did not fall for the illusion: 93% of the time, this group was actually correctly able to identify when the photo placed before them was, in fact, an inward-pointing concave mask.

Clearly what we see here is an expansion in perceptual ability compared to normal controls. Data like this has begun to pierce the notion that mental illness is purely a negative or pathological experience. In fact, in this study, it was the normal controls who were less in touch with reality than those with a psychotic illness!

The most interesting aspect of this is that, whether they be suffering neurosis, depression, bipolar or even psychotic disorders, many people actually have some awareness of the fact that they are also somehow connecting, through this process, to a more profound reality that they were like the rest of us hitherto ignorant of. The experience might be disconcerting, even acutely frightening, but there is a sense that there is also something restorative about it too; they are rediscovering some roots they, perhaps along with the rest of us, had long forgotten about. One patient put it to me this way, ‘I feel like I am waking up. But it’s very scary because I feel like I have been regressing at the same time. It’s almost as if I needed to go through this in order to wake up.’

This sense of a wider meaning and purpose behind a breakdown is not an uncommon theme among the people I see but it is, nevertheless, so counterintuitive that it continues to halt me in my tracks whenever I encounter it. In psychiatry, for genuinely caring reasons, we are striving to reduce the distress that the people we see are experiencing. That, after all, is the reason we became health-care professionals in the first place: to heal the sick. So our reflex, whenever we see people in any kind of pain, is to remove it. But when one senses that the sufferer himself/herself sees value in the experience then we need to stop and think. So long as they are not a risk to themselves or others, perhaps our usual reflex to extinguish such an experience might lead to the suppression of something that could otherwise have been valuable or even potentially transformative.

I have had many experiences of treating people who, even after a terrible episode of psychotic breakdown, came out the other end saying that this was good for them and that the experience, despite being horrendous, was something they needed to go through. This has sometimes been attributed to an expansion of awareness that they felt they needed, and that they believed the illness brought to them. A patient once talked with me about a profound, almost overwhelming, sense of gentleness and warmth he felt when listening to music one evening, just hours before his relapse into psychosis, and as we were talking in the session, he suddenly looked up at me and said, with a mixture of awe and joy on his face, and tears in his eyes, ‘Sometimes I feel that there is something out there so beautiful and so much bigger than me, but I just can’t handle it.’

Though we will be exploring the whole gamut of psychological distress and mental illness in this book, it is the psychotic experience that usually invokes the greatest stereotype and stigma, and so merits extra attention in this opening chapter. Psychosis is when someone is said to have lost touch with reality, and this may involve hearing voices, seeing things or holding some delusional ideas. The idea that someone suffering psychosis can also be the conduit of genuinely deep wisdom and insight, therefore, surprises most people, even mental-health professionals who might not be familiar with this client group. First-person accounts of this are not easy to find in the academic literature, but one particularly good case study was published by David Lukoff in the Journal of Transpersonal Psychology. He wrote it in conjunction with a gentleman who had himself suffered a psychotic breakdown and went by the pseudonym of Howard Everest. Howard was able, in a very articulate way, to describe his own breakdown which he referred to as a form of personal odyssey both during and after it actually happened.

. . .

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Dr Russell Razzaque is a London based psychiatrist with sixteen years experience in adult mental health. He has worked for a number of national and international organizations during his career including the University of Cambridge, the UK Home Office and the Ministry of Justice, and he currently works in acute mental health services in the NHS in east London. He is also a published author in human psychology with several books on the subject, and he writes columns for a number of publications including Psychology Today, The Independent, The Guardian and USA Today.

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from

Breaking Down Is Waking Up. Can psychological suffering be a spiritual gateway?

by Dr Russell Razzaque

get it at Amazon.com

Meditation increases prosociality? Meditation under the microscope – Ute Kreplin.

It’s hailed as the panacea for everything from cancer to war.

Inflated study results for the power of meditation fuel magical beliefs about its benefits. Mindfulness websites market it as a ‘happy pill, with no side effects’; it is said it can bring world peace in a generation, if only children would breathe deep and live in the moment.

But what if meditation doesn’t work for you? Or worse, what if it makes you feel depressed, anxious or psychotic?

Does research into its efficacy meet scientific standards? Can we be sure that there are no unexpected outcomes that neither benefit the individual nor society? Is it possible that meditation can fuel dysfunctional environments and indeed itself create a path to mental illness?

One day there will be a more complete picture of this potent and poorly understood practice. For now, our understanding is mostly warped.

Among the promised psychological and physical benefits of meditation are the elimination or reduction of stress, anxiety and depression, as well as bipolar disorder, eating disorders, diabetes, substance abuse, chronic pain, blood pressure, cancer, autism and schizophrenia. It is a panacea for the individual.

There are also apparent interpersonal and collective effects. Mindfulness and other Buddhist-derived meditation techniques, such as compassion and loving-kindness meditation, can perhaps increase prosocial emotions and behaviours, yielding greater social connection and altruism, tampering aggression and prejudice.

‘If every eight year old in the world is taught meditation,’ the Dalai Lama purportedly said, ‘the world will be without violence within one generation.’ The quote is widely shared online.

Such a useful activity naturally finds a variety of applications. Meditation techniques have been deployed in the military with the aim of increasing the wellbeing and work effectiveness of soldiers. Snipers are known to meditate in order to disengage emotionally from the act of killing, to steady the hand that takes a life (the element of peacefulness associated with meditation having been rather set aside). Corporations counteract stress and burnout with meditation which, on the surface, is an amiable aim, but it can also help create compliant workers. And in schools, meditation interventions aim to calm children’s minds, offering students the ability to better deal with the pressure of attaining high grades. Here, too, the goal is to reduce misbehaviour and aggression in a bid to increase prosociality and compliance.

Psychological research often upholds this optimism about the efficacy of meditation. Indeed, studies on the prosocial effects of meditation almost always support the power of meditation, the power not only of transforming the individual but of changing society. So it appears well grounded that meditation might improve socially advantageous behaviour. This brings with it the prospect of applications in a variety of contexts, where it might find its use in social conflicts, such as mitigation of war and terrorism. The problem, however, is with the research that bolsters such claims.

Last year, the experimental psychologists Miguel Farias, Inti A Brazil and I conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis that examined the scientiiic literature behind the claim that meditation increases prosociality. We looked at randomised controlled studies, where meditators were compared with nonmeditating individuals, and reviewed more than 20 studies that evaluated the effect of various types of meditation on prosocial feelings and behaviours such as how compassionate, empathetic or connected individuals felt.

The studies we reviewed used a variety of methodologies and interventions. For example, one used an eight-week meditation intervention called ‘mindfulness-based stress-reduction’. Individuals learned how to conduct mindful breathing and to practise ‘being in the moment’, letting go of their thoughts and feelings. Meanwhile the control group, with which the meditators were compared, engaged in a weekly group discussion about the benefits of compassion. Another study compared guided relaxation (participants listening to an audio recording about deep breathing and unwinding) with a control group that simply did nothing in a waiting room. Most studies required participants to fill in questionnaires about their experience of the meditation intervention, and their levels of compassion towards themselves and others. Some studies also included behavioural measures of compassion, in one case assessed by how willing a person was to give up a chair in a (staged) full waiting room.

Initially, the results were promising. Our meta-analysis indicated that meditation did indeed have a positive, though moderate, impact on prosociality. But digging deeper, the picture became more complicated. While meditation made people feel somewhat more compassionate or empathetic, it did not reduce aggression or prejudice, nor did it improve how socially connected one felt. So the prosocial benefits are not straightforward, but they are apparently measurable. The issue is the way in which those benefits were measured.

To fully dissect the studies, we conducted a secondary comparison to see how methodological considerations would change our initial findings. This analysis looked at the use of control groups and whether the teacher of the intervention was also an author of the study, which might be an indication of bias. The results were astounding.

Let’s start with the control groups. The purpose of the control group is to isolate the effects of the intervention (in our case, meditation) and to eliminate unintentional bias. The importance of adequate control conditions was first brought to light by the discovery of the placebo effect in drug trials, which is when a treatment is effective even though no active agent (or drug) is used. To avoid this effect, each group in a drug trial receives identical treatments, except one group receives a placebo (or sugar pill) and the other gets the real drug. Neither the experimenter nor the participants know who is in which trial (this is called a double-blind design), which helps to eliminate unintentional bias. This way they can tell if it’s the active agent that is effective and not something else.

But the use of adequate controls is tricky in studies that look at behavioural change, because it is harder to create a control group (or placebo) when the treatment is not just a pill but an action. The control has to be similar to the intervention but lack some important components that differentiate it from the experimental counterpart. This is known as an active control. A passive control group simply does nothing, compared with the group that has the intervention.

Meditation did indeed improve compassion when the intervention was compared with a passive control group, that is, a group that completed only the questionnaires and surveys but did not engage in any real activity. So participants who undertook eight weeks of loving-kindness meditation were found to have improved compassion following the intervention compared with a passive waiting-room control group.

Our analysis suggests that meditation per se does not, alas, make the world a more compassionate place.

But have we isolated the effects of meditation or are we simply demonstrating that doing something is better than doing nothing? It might be that compassion improved simply because individuals spent eight weeks thinking about being more compassionate, and felt good about having engaged in a new activity. An active control group (eg, participants taking part in a discussion about compassion) is a more effective tool to isolate the effects of the meditation intervention because both groups have now engaged in a new activity that involves cultivating compassion. And here the results of our analysis suggest that meditation per se does not, alas, make the world a more compassionate place.

A well designed control condition allows studies with a double-blind design. Developing an effective placebo for a meditation intervention is often said to be impossible, but it has in fact been done and with considerable success. In the heydays of transcendental meditation research in the 1970s, Jonathan C Smith developed a 71-page manual describing the rationale and beneiits of a meditation technique. He gave the manual to a research assistant, who was unaware that the technique was completely made-up therefore, a placebo and who then proceeded to give a lecture to participants in the control group about the merits of the technique. (When it came to the actual placebo technique, participants were instructed to sit quietly for 20 minutes twice per day in a dark room, and to think of anything they wanted.) The point is, the placebo can work in studying meditation, it’s just not often used.

Double-blind designs can help to eliminate the accidental bias of the participants through the researcher. These biases have a longstanding history in psychology, and are called experimenter biases (when the experimenter inadvertently influences the participant’s behaviour) and demand characteristics (when participants behave in a way that they think will please the experimenter). The importance of avoiding experimenter bias and demand characteristics was discussed as early as the 1960s. Recent work indicates that experimenter biases remain, particularly in the study of meditation.

In light of the discussion around experimenter bias and demand characteristics, it is surprising to find that, in 48 per cent of the studies we looked at, the meditation intervention was taught by one of the studv’s authors, often its lead author.

More importantly, little attempt was made to control for any potential bias that an enthusiastic teacher and researcher might have had on the participants. Such a bias is often not intentional but stems from subconsciously giving preferential treatment or being particularly enthusiastic to participants in the experimental group. The prevalence of authors as teachers was so great that we decided to look at it statistically in our meta-analysis. We compared studies that had used an author with studies that had used an external teacher or other form of instruction (eg, an audio recording).

We found that compassion increased only in those studies where the author was also the teacher of the intervention.

Experimenter bias often goes hand-in-hand with demand characteristics, where participants behave or respond in a way that they think is in line with the expectations of the researcher. For example, participants might respond regardless of their true feelings more enthusiastically on a questionnaire about compassion because the researcher herself was enthusiastic about compassion. The media buzz around meditation which portrays it as a cure for a range of mental health problems, the key to improved wellbeing and to changing one’s brain for the better is also very likely to feed back to participants, who will expect to see benefits from a meditation intervention.

Yet, almost none of the studies we examined controlled for expectation effects, and this methodological concern is generally absent in the meditation literature.

The prevalence of experimenter bias is only one side of the coin. Another troubling but rarely discussed bias concerns data-analysis and reporting. Interpreting statistical results and choosing what to highlight is challenging. Data do not speak for themselves: they are interpreted by academics whose minds are not blank states. Academics often tread a thin line between the duty of impartial data-analysis and their own beliefs, desires and expectations. In 2003, Ted Kaptchuk of Harvard Medical School summarised a number of interpretative biases that have become widespread in science reporting: confirmation bias, rescue bias (finding selective fault with an experiment to justify an expectation), and ‘time will tell’ bias (holding on to an expectation discounted by data because additional data might in fact support it), among others. All were overwhelmingly present in the meditation literature we reviewed.

The most common bias we encountered was a ‘confirmation bias’, in which evidence that supports one’s preconceptions is favoured over evidence that challenges these convictions. Confirmation bias was particularly prevalent in the form of an overreporting of marginally significant results. When using statistical testing, a p-value of 0.05 and below typically indicates that the results are statistically significant in psychological research. But it has become common practice to report results as ‘trends’ or as ‘marginally significant’ if they are close to, but don’t quite reach the desired 0.05 cut-off. The problem is that there is little consensus in psychology as to what might constitute ‘marginal significance’, which in our review ranged from p-values of 0.06 to 0.14 hardly even marginal. (It is debatable whether p-values are not the most accurate way to conduct science anyway, but we should stick to the rules if we are using this type of testing.)

The positive view of meditation and the fight to protect its reputation make it harder to publish negative results.

Being liberal with statistical methods that were designed to have clear cut-offs increases the chance of finding an effect when there is none. A further problem with the use of ‘marginal significance’ is reporting it free from bias. For instance, in one study the authors reported a marginally significant difference (p = 0.069) in favour of the meditation intervention relative to the control group. However, on the following page, when the authors reported a different set of results that did not favour the meditation group, they claimed the exact same p-level as non-significant. When the results confirmed their hypothesis, it was ‘significant’ but only in that case.

In fact, the majority of studies in our review discussed the marginally significant as equal to statistically significant.

Confirmation bias is difficult to overcome. Journals rely on reviewers to spot them, but because some of these biases have become standard practice (through the reporting of marginally significant effects, say) they often slip through. Reviewers and authors also face academic pressures that make these biases more likely since journals favour the reporting of positive results.

But in the study of meditation there is another complication: many of the researchers, and therefore the reviewers of journal articles, are personally invested in meditation not only as practitioners and enthusiasts but also as providers of meditation programmes from which their institutions or themselves financially profit. The overly positive view of meditation and the fierce fight to protect its untarnished reputation make it harder to publish negative results.

My aim is not to discredit science, but scientists do have a duty to produce an evidence base that aims to be bias-free and aware of its limitations. This is important because the inflated results for the power of meditation fuel magical beliefs about its benefits. Mindfulness websites market it as a ‘happy pill, with no side effects’; it is said it can bring world peace in a generation, if only children would breathe deep and live in the moment. But can we be sure that there are no unexpected outcomes that neither benefit the individual nor society? Is it possible that meditation can fuel dysfunctional environments and indeed itself create a path to mental illness?

The utilisation of meditation techniques by large corporations such as Google or Nike has created growing tensions within the wider community of individuals who practise and endorse its benefits. Those of a more traditional bent argue that meditation without the ethical teachings can lead into the wrong kind of meditation (such as the sniper who steadies the killing shot, or the compliant worker who submits to an unhealthy work environment). But what if meditation doesn’t work for you? Or worse, what if it makes you feel depressed, anxious or psychotic? The evidence for such symptoms is predictably scarce in recent literature, but reports from the 1960s and ’70s warn of the dark side of transcendental meditation. There is a danger that those few cases that receive psychiatric attention are discounted by psychologists as having had a predisposition to mental illness.

In The Buddha Pill (2015), Miguel Farias and Catherine Wikholm take a critical look at the symptoms of depression, anxiety, restlessness, mania and psychosis that are triggered directly by meditation. They argue that the prevalence of adverse effects has not been assessed by the scientific community, and it is easy to think that the few anecdotal cases that might surface are due to an individual’s predisposition to mental-health problems. But a simple search on Google shows that reports of depression, anxiety and mania are not uncommon in meditation forums and blogs. For example, one Buddhist blog features a number of reports on adverse mental-health effects that are framed as ‘dark nights’. One blogger writes:

I’ve had one pretty intense dark night, it lasted for nine months, included misery, despair, panic attacks, inability to concentrate (to the point that it was difficult to do simple tasks), inability to socialise (because of bad feelings, but also because I had a hard time following and understanding what others were saying, due to lack of concentration), loneliness, auditory hallucinations, mild paranoia, treating my friends and family badly, long episodes of nostalgia and regret, obsessive thoughts (usually about death), etc, etc, etc.

In Buddhist circles, these so-called ‘dark nights’ are part of meditation. In an ideal situation, ‘dark nights’ are worked through with an experienced teacher under the framework of Buddhist teachings, but what about those who don’t have such a teacher or who meditate in a secular context?

Those who meditate alone can be left isolated in the claws of mental ill-health.

The absence of reported adverse effects in the current literature might be accidental, but it is more likely that those suffering from them believe that such effects are a part of meditation, or they don’t connect them to the practice in the first place. Considering its positive image and the absence of negative reports on meditation, it is easy to think that the problem lies within. In the best-case scenario, one might simply stop meditating, but many webpages and articles often frame these negative or ambivalent feelings as a part of meditation that will go away with practice. Yet continuing to practise can result in a full-blown psychotic episode (at worst), or have more subtle adverse effects. For example, in 1976 the clinical psychologist Arnold A Lazarus reported that a ‘young man found that the benefits he had been promised from transcendental meditation simply did not emerge, and instead of questioning the veracity of the exaggerated claims, he developed a strong sense of failure, futility, and ineptitude’.

In a best-case scenario, individuals will have a psychiatrist or experienced meditation teacher to guide them, but those who practise alone can be left isolated in the claws of mental ill-health. Lazarus warned that meditation is not for everyone, and we need to consider individual differences and be aware of adverse effects in its application in a secular context. ‘One man’s meat is another man’s poison,’ he once said about transcendental meditation. Researchers and therapists need to know both the benefits and the risks of meditation for different kinds of people, it is not unvarnished good news.

In The Buddha Pill, Farias and Wikholm write:

We haven’t stopped believing in meditation’s ability to fuel change but we are concerned that the science of meditation is promoting a skewed view: meditation wasn’t developed so we could lead less stressful lives or improve our wellbeing. Its primary purpose was more radical to rupture your idea of who you are; to shake to the core your sense of self so that you realise there is ‘nothing there’. But that’s not how we see meditation courses promoted in the West. Here, meditation has been revamped as a natural pill that will quieten your mind and make you happier.

There must be a more balanced view of meditation, one that understands the limitations of meditation and its adverse effects. One day there will be a more complete picture of this potent and poorly understood practice. For now, our understanding is mostly warped.

Ute Kreplin is lecturer in psychology at Massey University in New Zealand. Her research has been published in Nature and Neuropsychologia, among others.

ANATOMY OF TERROR. From the Death of bin Laden to the Rise of the Islamic State – Ali Soufan.

We can hope that the Islamist movement ignited by Osama bin Laden, fanned into an inferno by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and now fueled, like a vision of hell, by thousands of corpses, will not endure quite as long as the death cult inaugurated by bin Laden’s medieval doppelgénger, Hassan-i Sabbah. But at the same time, let us also recognize that al-Qaeda’s story is far from over.

We have killed the messenger. But the message lives.

FRIENDS AND ENEMIES

On a crisp morning in December of 2001, I picked up a pockmarked clay brick, one of thousands like it littering the site of what only weeks before had been a hideout for the most wanted man on earth. Perhaps, I thought, this very brick had formed part of the wall of Osama bin Laden’s sleeping quarters, or the floor where he habitually sat to receive visitors. As I felt the heft and contour of that brick in my hands, I contemplated the unlikely sequence of eventssome in my lifetime, others over long centuries that had brought me to that extraordinary time and place.

I was born in Lebanon, emigrated to America, and went to college and then grad school in Pennsylvania. I took a double major in political science and international relations, with a minor in cultural anthropology, and followed that up with a master’s in foreign relations. With the Cold War freshly over and America’s position as the world’s only superpower seemingly secure, it was tempting to conceive of the world as a complex but orderly machine, in which nation-states would set rational policies and those rational policies would dictate logical strategies.

Yet there was something fundamentally unsatisfying about this clockwork view of the world. From my graduate studies, one prominent counterexample stuck in my mind, one from 2,500 years ago. The Peloponnesian War pitted Athens’s Delian League against a coalition of states led by Sparta and eventually aided by the mighty Persian Empire. After a quarter century of alarms and reversals, Athens finally surrendered. By paving the way for Alexander’s unification of Greece and his subsequent conquests, the war changed the course of European and world history. But the outcome was by no means foreordained.

I came to see that all the key decisions were based neither on policy nor on strategy but on personalities.

Speeches and emotional appeals consistently carried the day. Half a millennium later, Cato the Younger would mark this same phenomenon in Rome’s rocky transformation from republic to empire. “When Cicero spoke,” he said, “people marveled. When Caesar spoke, people marched.”

Theories are great tools to think with. They open your mind, broaden your perspective. But it is people who make the world go round. Individual human beings, with all their idiosyncrasies and contradictions and baggage, with their ideas sculpted by culture and belief and education and economics and family, are the agents of every grand historical force that future generations will see smoldering in the tangled wreckage of the past.

While I was still a student, I began following through the Arabic press the exploits of a dissident Saudi millionaire named Osama bin Laden and his nascent extremist organization, al-Qaeda, the Base. I marveled at this man’s audacity in declaring war on America, and his charismatic ability to attract followers to his side. But my own calling could not have been more different. Fresh out of grad school, I joined the Federal Bureau of Investigation, where one of my first assignments was to write a paper on this man bin Laden and his group. My report came to the attention of John O’Neill, the legendary head of the bureau’s counterterrorism section, based in Manhattan. In time, John became my mentor and a close friend. When suicide bombers murdered seventeen American sailors aboard the USS Cole in October 2000, John assigned me to lead the investigation. I traveled to Sanaa, Yemen’s ancient capital, and began running down leads and interrogating suspects.

John O’Neill retired from the bureau in the summer of 2001. I took him out to lunch to celebrate, and told him I was getting married. He gave me his blessing. But this would prove to be our last meeting. On August 23, John became security director for the World Trade Center. Two weeks later, he died rushing back into the south tower, courageous to the very end, determined to do what he had been doing his whole career: save lives.

Three months later, standing with my colleagues in the remains of bin Laden’s bombed out Kabul compound, I felt myself overcome by a strong sense of revenge, for my country, for the thousands murdered, and especially for John. Ever since the attacks, the alQaeda leader had been confidently predicting America’s imminent downfall. Now, bin Laden and his extremist cohorts were learning that the United States and its broad coalition of allies would not give in to terrorism so easily. For now, the sheikh still evaded capture, but the tide had turned. The piles of rubble, the lone wall that remained of a sizable residence, the twisted metal of what had once been a staircase, the smattering of air-dropped leaflets offering twenty-five million dollars for information leading to bin Laden’s capture, all bore witness to the turn of fortune’s wheel. Back home in the United States, some political leaders were already talking about Afghanistan as a future democratic beacon for the region.

In the decade that followed, my life changed utterly. I spent another four years with the FBI, investigating the 9/11 attacks and other terrorist crimes. I got married, left the bureau, and eventually became the father of three very energetic boys. And so it was that, on a Sunday evening in the spring of 2011, I found myself at home, assembling a pair of swing seats for our newborn twins as the television chattered away in the background. At around 9:45 pm, a special announcement broke through the babble: the president would shortly be addressing the nation. Clearly, something big had happened.

It was 11:35 pm. by the time President Obama approached a podium in the East Room of the White House and confirmed to the world that U.S. Navy SEALS had killed Osama bin Laden. As the president spoke of the people bin Laden had murdered, of the families bereaved, of the children left fatherless, my thoughts turned again to John O’Neill and the other friends I had lost along the way. Near the end of his remarks, Obama said, “Justice has been done.” That was certainly true, but the ramifications of bin Laden’s demise had yet to play out.

Would the jihadist edifice simply crumble without its keystone? Or would bin Laden prove more powerful as a martyr than he ever had been as a living leader?

No doubt these questions were on the president’s mind, too. ABC News’s Martha Raddatz had reported “absolute jubilation throughout government.” For my part, I could not help but feel more troubled than jubilant.

Emails began flooding my inbox, from friends and colleagues congratulating me, and from reporters seeking my take on events. An editor from the New York Times asked if I would put my views in an op-ed for the paper. I sat down to analyze the situation. I thought of all the dozens of al-Qaeda acolytes I had interrogated over the years, playing high-stakes games of mental chess with extremists and murderers for the sake of extracting priceless evidence. They had pledged bayat to bin Laden, swearing allegiance neither to the office nor the organization but to the man himself. To whom would zealots such as these now declare fealty?

Osama bin Laden had been uniquely well equipped to lead the network he founded. He had walked away from the wealth and luxury of the Saudi upper crust in order to devote himself to jihad, against the Soviets and then against America. This personal history helped him in two ways. First, his freely chosen asceticism helped inspire fanatical devotion among his followers. Secondly, at the same time, his privileged background endowed him with contacts among wealthy elites willing to bankroll terrorism. Bin Laden’s death would therefore leave a gaping hole in aI-Qaeda’s recruitment and fund-raising efforts.

It seemed likely that bin Laden’s longtime deputy, Ayman al Zawahiri, would be named the new emir. If so, I knew that he would struggle. To be sure, Zawahiri is clever and strategic. He is, after all, a fully trained surgeon who honed his militant skills battling the Sadat and Mubarak regimes in his native Egypt. He is also a zealot of uncompromising brutality, responsible more than anyone for justifying the tactic of suicide bombing and by extension for the tragic toll it has taken on innocent Muslims. But for all his intelligence, his cunning, and his zeal, Zawahiri possesses none of the charisma bin Laden had. Indeed, his personality has alienated many people over the years. More importantly still, Zawahiri is an Egyptian. Within al-Qaeda, his appointment would inflame the already tense internecine rivalry between his countrymen and the Gulf Arabs who make up the jihadi rank and file.

As an organization, then, al-Qaeda was in deep trouble. But what of bin Ladenism as an idea? That, I felt, was a different story. I feared that some of the regional groups that bin Laden had worked so hard to keep in line-like al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and aI-Shabaab in the Horn of Africa, would split off. They might even intensify their ideology. No doubt they would see the nascent Arab Spring as an opportunity to impose their ideas on their fellow Muslims. In the pages of the New York Times I wrote:

We cannot rest on our laurels. Most of Al Qaeda’s leadership council members are still at large, and they command their own followers. They will try to carry out operations to prove Al Qaeda’s continuing relevance. And with Al Qaeda on the decline, regional groups that had aligned themselves with the network may return to operating independently, making them harder to monitor and hence deadlier.

It brings me no pleasure to see those premonitions borne out. Al-Qaeda has indeed fractured into regional units. Zawahiri, the cold bureaucrat, has struggled to maintain control. Meanwhile, the cancer of bin Ladenism has metastasized across the Middle East and North Africa and beyond, carried by even more virulent vectors. Whereas on 9/11 al-Qaeda had around 400 members, today it has thousands upon thousands, in franchises and affiliates spread from the shores of the Pacific to Africa’s Atlantic seaboard, and that is without even counting the breakaway armed group that calls itself the Islamic State. AI-Qaeda’s Syrian branch alone has more members than bin Laden ever imagined for his entire network. It is striking to note that, in October of 2015, more than fourteen years after the 9/11 attacks, US. forces disrupted what is believed to be the largest al-Qaeda training camp ever, all thirty square miles of it-right in the organization’s historic heartland of Afghanistan.

In the Middle East, the Islamic State, al-Qaeda’s most vicious offshoot to date, employs methods so savage that even hardened terrorists publicly denounce their brutality. Where bin Laden encouraged militants in his network to focus on attacking the West directly rather than hitting regimes in the Muslim world, the Islamic State has successfully done both. It has brought mass murder to the streets of Paris, airports in Brussels and Istanbul, a Russian airliner in the skies over Sinai, and a Christmas market in Berlin. It has killed worshipers at mosques in Yemen and Kuwait, attacked police, soldiers, and border guards in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and bombed political rallies in Turkey. At the same time, it has conquered millions of acres across Iraq and Syria, aided by tens of thousands of foreign recruits. The organization’s formal break with al-Qaeda in 2014 has not stopped the Islamic State from expanding to other troubled regions of the world, most notably Libya. The group has even established a beachhead in remote regions of Afghanistan, where it vies violently for control with al-Qaeda’s longstanding allies, the Taliban, who governed Afghanistan until the United States removed them from power in 2001.

A video popular among Muslims living in the projects of East London, Birmingham, and elsewhere in England shows a man squatting in a Syrian field, his features covered with a ski mask, his rifle at the ready. Fighting in the Levant is “not as easy as pulling out your nine-millimeter on a back road of the streets of London and blasting a guy,” he says in a forthright East London accent. “It’s not as easy as putting up your feet on the couch after a hard day’s work on the corner.”

Inspired by such bin Ladenist propaganda, as many as 38,000 foreigners had joined the fighting in Syria by the end of 2015. Compare that to the Afghan jihad against the Soviets, which attracted “only” 8,000 foreign nationals. And whereas those who made the journey to that conflict came overwhelmingly from Muslim-majority countries, the war in Syria has attracted over 5,000 foreign fighters from the United States and the European Union, as well as many hundreds from Russia. Around 20 to 30 percent of these fighters have already returned home.

Not all of them are plotting violence, by any means; but the numbers are so great that even if only a small proportion of these fighters emerge from the conflict as hardened terrorists, it could spell big trouble for the West. How big? Think of it this way: the islamic State’s attacks on Paris in November of 2015, in which 130 innocent people died, were perpetrated by just 9 men.

My first book, The Black Banners, told the tale of al-Qaeda up to the death of its founder. In this book, I aim to take the story further. True to my conviction that personalities matter, I will focus my story through the eyes of several key individuals, notably bin Laden himself; Saif al Adel, his wily security chief; Ayman al-Zawahiri, his deputy and successor; Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the Jordanian militant who founded the organization that would become the Islamic State; Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the group’s current “caliph”; and the men (and in bin Laden’s case, the women) of their inner circles. Through these characters, we will trace the transformation of al-Qaeda as an organization, the simultaneous development of bin Ladenism into a far more potent and lethal force, the rise and decline of the Islamic State, and the impending resurgence of al-Qaeda.

In its landmark final report, the 9/11 Commission concluded that the tragic attacks of September 2001 were allowed to proceed in part because of a catastrophic “failure of imagination” on the part of US. intelligence. Analysts commonly asserted that they simply couldn’t imagine someone flying a plane into a building. In a similar vein, a month before the US. invasion of Iraq in 2003, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz told a Senate panel, “It’s hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself and to secure the surrender of Saddam’s security forces and his army.” It took less than two months, and minimal U.S. casualties, to conquer the country; yet eight years, five thousand coalition deaths, and $1.7 trillion were nowhere near enough to “provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq.”

Know your enemy, Sun Tsu admonishes us across the millennia. And yet, time and again, when inquiries are held and hard questions asked, the response amounts to, “We couldn’t conceive, we couldn’t imagine, we couldn’t wrap our heads around the possibility that something like this could happen.” Or, just as bad, we did imagine some worst-case scenario and therefore it was sure to happen, as in the so-called One Percent Doctrine espoused by Vice President Dick Cheney, who told Americans, “If there is a one percent chance that Pakistani scientists are helping al-Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response. It’s not about our analysis. It’s about our response.” That is the high road to an absurd and ruinous waste of finite intelligence, military, diplomatic, and law-enforcement resources.

The key to a more constructive use of our imaginations is empathy, not in the colloquial sense of sharing another person’s perspective, but in the clinical sense of being able to see the world through another person’s eyes. Sadly, after fifteen years of the war on terrorism, we still do not really know our enemy in this deeper sense.

In this book, by delving into the personalities of men who mean us harm, I aim not to create sympathy for them, far from it, but to help point the way to a deeper understanding of their worldview, their motivations, and how best to combat the destructive ideology they represent.

I still have that battered clay brick I picked up in bin Laden’s shattered hideout. A decade and a half later, it sits on a shelf in my office in Midtown Manhattan. Looking at it while I work reminds me of the progress we have made against terrorism since I first picked it up on that winter morning, but also of the missteps we have made along the way, and above all of how far we have still to go.

We have killed the messenger. But the message lives.

PROLOGUE

THE OLD MAN OF THE MOUNTAIN

Once upon a time, there was a terrorist who dwelled in the mountains. Throughout the Muslim world and beyond, his name became a byword for brutality. Tribal Chieftains, great religious leaders, even sovereign rulers would take extraordinary pains to protect themselves against the terrorist and the cadre of killers he commanded. So loyal were his acolytes to their sheikh, so certain of the Paradise he promised, that they were prepared to die horribly, on his command. His followers claimed to be the most faithful among the faithful. Their aim was twofold: to shield from its perceived enemies the religious sect to which they belonged, and to eliminate from this imperfect world the corrupting influence of apostasy and religious impurity. Their modus operandi was public murder: every death a spectacle, every spectacle a political message.

Niceties such as guilt or innocence did not trouble the terrorist or his men; they operated under a fatwa, an infallible religious ruling, commanding the murder of “infidels”, non Muslims and “apostates”, Muslims who failed to live up to the terrorist’s own austere interpretation of Islam. And, of course, the terrorist and his men arrogated to themselves the right to distinguish between faithful and faithless. It was no surprise, therefore, that the vast majority of the terrorist’s victims were not Christians, Jews, or Zoroastrians but fellow Muslims.

Today, this terrorist is dead, long dead. His name was Hassan-i Sabbah. He was born sometime in the mid-eleventh century and died in 1124. The death cult he founded has long since faded away, but not before outliving its creator by more than a hundred years. Its name has passed into legend around the world, the Assassins. For Hassan-i Sabbah, the most prominent apostates were the Seljuk, the Turkish dynasty that ruled over much of the medieval Islamic world. The principal infidels were the Crusaders, who periodically rode in from western Europe to impose their disfigured version of Christian morality on the Holy Land.

Today’s terrorists see the world in similar terms. Their apostates are the modern-day rulers of the Islamic world, be they secular, like Egypt’s military strongmen, or allied to the West, like the House of Saud. Their infidels are the Christians, the Jews, the Americans, the West in general. They imagine themselves beset by contemporary Crusades, both literal and figurative. Some, like Boko Haram in Nigeria and the Taliban in Afghanistan, see modern, Western-style education as a conspiracy against Islam. Today’s fanatic killers may use suicide bombs instead of poison-tipped daggers, but they deploy eerily similar fatwas to justify their indiscriminate murder of innocent people at the World Trade Center in New York, in neighborhoods of Beirut, on trains in London and Madrid, on a residential street in Baghdad, at a Bastille Day celebration in Nice, in a nightclub in Istanbul, and on and on.

In Hassan-i Sabbah’s day, he and his followers were dismissed as wild outliers, able to execute their murderous missions only because they were stoked on drugs. The very word “Assassin” was said to derive from the Arabic hashishin, meaning “marijuana users.” In the popular imagination, today’s suicide bombers are seen as similarly brainwashed or brain-dead. In reality, many are troubled young people who discern little meaning in their own lives and view their acts as an ultimate expression of faith. Similarly, modern scholarship teaches that the word “Assassin” more likely derives not from any pharmacological association but from the Arabic asas (foundation of the faith). The Assassins were seen as returning to the basic principles of their religion, in other words, as fundamentalists. That is a vital difference, and one with enormous contemporary resonance. Not for nothing is the most notorious modern terrorist group known as al-Qaeda, The Base, or, in an alternate rendering, The Foundation.

It was not always thus. In fact, Islam began as a liberalizing force. It introduced racial and social equality to an Arab tribal society that had previously enjoyed neither. Islam was supposed to enlighten Arabia and deliver it from the Jahiliyyah, the Days of Ignorance. Through the new faith, women gained the right to inherit property and divorce their husbands 1,300 years before many of their Western sisters would win similar privileges. Ijtihad, independent thinking, was actively encouraged, one large reason why philosophy, literature, and the sciences all flourished throughout the first few hundred years of the faith.

Then, around the tenth century, the political and religious establishments determined that critical thinking posed a direct challenge to their authority, which rested on dogma and ritual. The “Gate of ljtihad” was closed. There was, these rulers said, nothing more to be learned. It was the end of history. It became impossible even to discuss whether the hijab, the head and neck scarf worn by some observant Muslim women, was ordained by law or custom, because that question and thousands of others were supposedly settled for all time centuries ago, and the state would silence anyone who dared say otherwise. In such an environment, there is little scope for constructive progress on the difficult questions of politics and society.

In 1989, the year of revolution against Soviet despotism, the National Interest magazine published an essay by Francis Fukuyama entitled “The End of History?” It captured the spirit of the age. “What we may be witnessing,” Fukuyama wrote, “is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of postwar history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.” In terms of governance, this was akin to saying that there was fundamentally nothing more to be learned. Western, free-market liberalism had triumphed; all that was left was for the rest of the world to catch up.

The reality was exactly the reverse. The Cold War, with its four-decade thermonuclear stalemate, did not initiate history’s thrilling denouement; in fact, it functioned more like an intermission. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, the movie could begin again. Great screenwriters tell us that, stripped down to essentials, there are only so many basic plots to choose from. Real life is like that, too. Scenarios repeat; roles recur; different actors don the costumes.

A Saudi millionaire dresses like an eleventh-century rebel, takes up arms, and encourages his followers to ascribe divine powers to him. In response to his atrocities, the West becomes mired in Afghanistan, a country whose highways are lined with the carcasses of Soviet tanks, and later in Iraq, a land created arbitrarily one hundred years ago by colonial fiat. After a decade of violence in that country, a shy bookworm from the sticks proclaims himself caliph of the Muslim world, puts on a black turban in imitation of the Prophet Muhammad, and demands the allegiance of all Muslims on pain of death.

This false caliph’s murderous movement draws sustenance from a war in neighboring Syria that bears more than passing similarities to eighteenth-century conflicts between Persian shahs, Russian tsars, and Turkish sultans.

We can hope that the Islamist movement ignited by Osama bin Laden, fanned into an inferno by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and now fueled, like a vision of hell, by thousands of corpses, will not endure quite as long as the death cult inaugurated by bin Laden’s medieval doppelgénger, Hassan-i Sabbah. But at the same time, let us also recognize that al-Qaeda’s story is far from over.

Chapter 1

THE SNAKE WITH BROKEN TEETH

Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event).

-TWEET BY SOHAIB ATHAR, @REALLYVIRTUAL, 12.58 AM PKT, MAY 2, 2011

Go away helicopter before I take out my giant SWATTER :-/

-@REALLW|RTUAL, 1.05 AM PKT

A huge window shaking bang here in Abbottabad Cantt. lhope its not the start of something NASTY :-$

-@REALLYV|RTUAL, 1.09 AM PKT

Sohaib Athar just wanted to get away from it all. His life in the Pakistani megacity of Lahore had been a dizzying burlesque of stifling heat, filthy air, unreliable power, and the everpresent danger of terrorist attack. After a while, it had all become too much for the young software developer. So he had packed up his laptops and fled for the relative tranquillity of the mountains north of Islamabad. Abbottabad must have seemed a promising place for a new start. The city lies cupped in a high-walled valley in the foothills of what becomes, much farther to the north and east, the outer reaches of the Himalayas. At an elevation of four thousand feet, roughly comparable to that of Salt Lake City, Utah, Abbottabad is known throughout the region for its agreeable hill-station climate. The town’s founder and namesake, the British Army Major James Abbott, waxed poetic about its “sweet air” and twittering birds. Its Anglican church, St. Luke’s, also established by the British, and built in a style that would have been familiar to soldiers homesick for the English countryside, still ministers to parishioners on Jinnah Road in the heart of the old town. Abbottabad was founded as a garrison city, and it remains so today; since Pakistan’s independence, it has been home to the prestigious Kakul Military Academy, the country’s answer to West Point. The academy has trained much of the country’s military leadership, including its former president, Pervez Musharraf. It is also a frequent port of call for top military brass from Pakistan’s allies; General David Petraeus visited in February 2010 while serving as overall commander of US. forces in the Middle East, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Abbottabad’s relative isolation and strong military presence conspire to create a sense of security that is sorely lacking in so many of Pakistan’s other major cities.

Unsurprisingly, therefore, Sohaib Athar was not alone in seeing Abbottabad as a place of refuge. Throughout the first decade of the twentyfirst century, people had moved there from elsewhere in the country, fleeing earthquakes, flooding, and the violent war against Islamic extremists ongoing in places like Waziristan, a notoriously lawless region in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA, two hundred miles to the southwest, along Pakistan’s frontier with Afghanistan. Abbottabad had also sheltered its fair share of less welcome transplants. Umar Patek, a key conspirator in the Bali nightclub bombing that killed more than 200 people in 2002, was arrested in Abbottabad in January 2011, together with Mohammed Tahir Shahzad, an al-Qaeda fixer who had arranged for Patek to travel to Waziristan alongside two French jihadists. it was not inconceivable, therefore, that other aI-Qaeda operatives, perhaps even senior figures, could still be laying low somewhere in Abbottabad.

About a mile and a half across town from where Sohaib Athar plied his screens and keyboards, in a relatively wealthy neighborhood where a few large houses rose over gardens in which residents grew food, there stood a spacious compound of the type known locally as a “mansion.” It consisted of a three-story main house, a guesthouse, and a number of outbuildings, all surrounded by uneven high walls, in places rising to twelve or eighteen feet, and crowned with a two-foot tangle of barbed wire.

The compound had no cable or telephone connections, although it did have a satellite dish. It lacked regular trash pickup; evidently its inhabitants preferred to burn their refuse on site. The balcony on the third floor of the big house, added following an earthquake that occurred in October 2005, was surrounded by an unbroken seven-foot screen wall. The plans for this edifice listed the property’s owner as Mohammed Arshad Naqab Khan. Khan was seldom seen, but when he did appear, he told neighbors that he was a wealthy money changer or gold merchant from the tribal regions, and that he needed high security to protect himself and his family from “enemies” he had made in that business. This seemed plausible enough. Besides, it was not uncommon for pious Pashtun families from the tribal lands to live in large, high-walled properties, to sequester their women and children indoors, and generally to keep to themselves.

But Arshad Khan and his backstory were a fiction, an alias concocted to hide the true identity of the compound’s owner.

Ibrahim Saeed Ahmed aka al-Kuwaiti

Ibrahim Saeed Ahmed was an ethnic Pakistani Pashtun whose family hailed from Shangla, a rugged, sparsely populated district in the mountains northwest of Abbottabad. Ahmed, however, was born and raised in Kuwait, and like many jihadis went by his nisbah, or toponym, al-Kuwaiti. Growing up in the tiny desert emirate, al-Kuwaiti had become the boyhood boon companion of a fellow Pakistani, an ethnic Baluch named Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

KSM, as he later became known to investigators, had been a jihadi since he was sixteen years old. Having fought the Soviets in the 1980s, he would go on to mastermind the 9/11 attacks in 2001 and carry out the beheading of the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl the following year.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed also served as al-Kuwaiti’s mentor in jihad. He got his friend a position as emir of an al-Qaeda guesthouse in the city of Karachi, in Pakistan’s deep south, and introduced him to his sheikh, a Saudi militant Chieftain named Osama bin Laden. Not long after this fateful meeting, al-Kuwaiti would begin a long service to bin Laden and his family as courier, domestic servant, and bodyguard. He kept this work, along with his other jihadi duties, a grave secret, even from those closest to him. In 2001, when he was around thirty-five years old, he married a fourteen-year-old girl from his home district and brought her to live with him in Karachi. He explained his frequent absences from the marital home by saying that he often traveled back to the Gulf on business. Throughout this time, al-Kuwaiti remained close to his old friend Khalid Sheikh Mohammed; KSM’s wife hosted a wedding feast for the new couple at her house. But it would be years before aI-Kuwaiti would tell his bride who this mysterious friend was or admit that he, like KSM, was in reality a mujahid of al-Qaeda. By then, there would be no going back.

Following bin Laden’s defeat at the cave complex of Tora Bora in late 2001, the al-Qaeda leader fled over the mountains into hiding in Pakistan, shaving his long beard to evade recognition. Al-Kuwaiti was once again called upon to assist the sheikh in his time of need. In the summer of 2002, he set up a house for bin Laden in Swat, not far from his ancestral homeland in the north of Pakistan. Al-Kuwaiti moved his wife and children there, too, and they were soon joined by his brother, whose name was Abrar, and Abrar’s own growing family. The brothers, both olive-skinned and beardless, but with close-cropped mustaches in the traditional Pakistani style, did not look out of place in their country of origin. In exchange for their hospitality and protection, bin Laden paid the Kuwaiti brothers a salary of 9,000 rupees per month, around $100, which he supplemented from time to time with gifts and zakat (charity).

The Swat house nestled in a pretty stretch of countryside by the banks of a river. To Osama bin Laden, this bucolic setting may have seemed a welcome respite from the relentIess pace of frontline jihad. But any feeling of serenity would prove to be short-Iived. In early 2003, al-Kuwaiti’s old friend Khalid Sheikh Mohammed brought his family to stay at the Swat house for two weeks. Just a month after he left, al-Kuwaiti was watching the news with his wife when KSM’s face unexpectedly flashed onto the screen. The 9/11 planner had been arrested in Rawalpindi, the twin city of the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. Al-Kuwaiti flew into a panic; KSM was a tough personality and an experienced operative, but there was no telling what secrets he might divulge, knowingly or otherwise, under interrogation. Within a week, al-Kuwaiti, bin Laden, and the other residents of the Swat house had fled. Quickly, the brothers moved them to Haripur, a city to the east surrounded by squalid camps sheltering some of the millions of refugees displaced by a quarter century of conflict in neighboring Afghanistan. Bin Laden’s house in the suburbs, by contrast, was pretty and spacious, with three bedrooms, a lawn, and a roof terrace. But nobody ever visited him there. One neighbor noted that the brothers kept their gates shut, which was unusual for the area. When they needed to make phone calls, they would travel up to ninety miles away to use public call boxes.

By late 2004, aI-Kuwaiti, operating under his assumed identity of Arshad Khan, had begun buying up tracts of land in Abbottabad Cantonment for what would become bin Laden’s mansion. In August of 2005, with construction on the main building complete, bin Laden moved in, together with two of his wives, his son Khalid, and a number of his daughters and grandchildren. Al-Kuwaiti lived with his wife and children in the guesthouse on site, while Abrar and his family occupied the ground floor of the main house. Eventually, the screened-off third floor built after the October earthquake became bin Laden’s living quarters.

Bin Laden always claimed to live in accordance with the ways of the Prophet, and few parallels between their two lives would have escaped him. So it is quite possible that he would have compared his flight from Afghanistan to Pakistan with Muhammad’s Hijra, or migration, from Mecca to Yathrib, the desert settlement that would eventually become Medina. In fact, he often called on his followers to make their own hijra to Afghanistan. Since his arrival in Pakistan, bin Laden’s movements, from Swat to Haripur to Abbottabad, had traced a path roughly due east, deeper and deeper into the country. Four years after 9/11, he had made it roughly two hundred miles from Tora Bora, about the same distance as the Prophet traveled from Mecca to Yathrib. Perhaps this was an auspicious sign.

Everything about the Abbottabad mansion was geared toward privacy and self-sufficiency. The brothers hired a local farmer, a man called Shamraiz, to plow an adjacent field for growing vegetables. There were animals at the site, too, including chickens and a cow. Whatever food and provisions could not be grown, raised, or made on the premises, al-Kuwaiti and Abrar would buy at the bazaar in town. Bin Laden was no stranger to spartan living conditions. Indeed, for decades, he had deliberately sought out a life of privation. Like charismatic leaders before him, including the Assassin leader Hassan-i Sabbah, he cultivated this ascetic image as an important part of his appeal. Frugality came naturally to him; indeed, it seemed to exhilarate him. When he returned to Afghanistan in 1996, he chose a grim, unkempt hideout in the mountains in preference to several much cushier residences, including a former royal palace. Later, in the compound at Kandahar, his house was among the simplest on the base, with not even a carpet on the floor. In 2005, upon his arrival in Abbottabad, bin Laden’s wardrobe consisted of no more than a black jacket, a couple of sweaters, and six shalwar kameez, the traditional Pashtun dress of baggy pants and a long shirt.

In accordance with his fundamentalist reading of Islam, he had always kept the women of his household in strict purdah, separation from men outside their immediate family. In Abbottabad that prohibition became a matter of security as well as religious obligation. Indeed, his rules were so absolute that, from the age of three, the bin Laden women were banned from watching television, so that they would never see an unfamiliar male face. His children and grandchildren were sequestered inside the house almost twenty-four hours a day. The sheikh personally home-schooled them in the bin Laden brand of extreme religion and forbade them from playing with the children of al-Kuwaiti and Abrar, who lived just feet away within the same compound. Such was their isolation that the sheikh did not even allow them to be vaccinated for polio along with the other children. The nearest the bin Laden children came to fun was their occasional competitions to see which of them could grow the biggest vegetables in the garden.

Despite his well known penchant for sports, hiking, and horseback riding, the sheikh’s own health had taken a downturn in early adulthood from which he had never fully recovered. Fortyeight when he began living in Abbottabad, he was practically blind in one eye, the result of a childhood injury he successfully concealed from the public for many years. In his twenties and thirties, during the jihad against Afghanistan’s Soviet occupiers in the 1980s, he had suffered crippling bouts of pain and paralysis, which the former surgeon Ayman al-Zawahiri had treated with a glucose drip. Having inhaled Russian napalm in Afghanistan, he frequently had trouble with his larynx. In Abbottabad he complained of pain in his heart and kidneys, but there was no question of visiting a doctor. Instead, when bin Laden felt ill, he would treat himself with al-tibb al-nabawi, traditional medicine based on the hadith, sayings ascribed to the Prophet. Some believe, for example, that Muhammad recommended barley broth and honey to treat an upset stomach, senna for constipation, truffle water for eye ailments, and henna for aches and wounds. “God has not made a disease without appointing a remedy for it,” says one well known hadith, “with the exception of one disease, namely old age.” By his early fifties, Osama Bin Laden had become, prematurely, an old man. In videos made inside the compound, he appears hunched and frail, his face lined, his eyes tired. His beard, salt-and-pepper at the time of the 9/11 attacks, was rapidly turning white, although he was not above dyeing it jet black in video messages meant for public consumption.

In his three decade career of murder and mayhem, Osama bin Laden had gone by many names. His followers called him Azmaray, the sheikh, the emir, the director, Abu Abdullah. His code name at the US. Joint Special Operations Command was Crankshaft, reflecting his vital importance in driving the engine of al-Qaeda. But one final nickname captured the diminished circumstances of his existence in Abbottabad. In the months leading up to bin Laden’s death, observing his daily walks within the bounds of a compound he never seemed to leave, analysts with the Central Intelligence Agency had taken to calling him The Pacer. But Osama bin Laden was no ordinary shut-in, and he was by no means cut off from the world. Far from it: Until the day he died, the sheikh remained in active control of the deadliest terror network in history.

Communication with the outside was difficult, to be sure. Ever since the arrest of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed so soon after his visit to the house in Swat, bin Laden had cut off face-to-face contact with other senior jihadis, or, indeed, any al-Qaeda members other than his immediate protectors. No doubt this was a wise precaution for a man with a twenty-five-million-dollar U.S. bounty on his head. Besides, house calls would be an impractical way of governing a network that bestrode much of the Islamic world. But remote means of communication were scarcely any more secure. Email was not to be trusted; bin Laden knew from past experience that the Americans were capable of intercepting such messages, even with encryption. As he himself wrote in August of 2010, “Computer science is not our science and we are not the ones who invented it. . . . Encryption systems work with ordinary people, but not against those who created email and the Internet.” Cellular communication, too, was risky, because it could give away a person’s location and perhaps even call forth one of the hated unmanned “spy planes” that patrolled the skies over northern Pakistan. By this time, al-Kuwaiti had evidently acquired a cellphone; but whenever he needed to place a call, he would drive out from Abbottabad for ninety minutes or more before even placing the battery in his device.

*

from

ANATOMY OF TERROR. From the Death of bin Laden to the Rise of the Islamic State

by Ali Soufan

get it at Amazon.com

‘Puer Aeternus’, Failure to Launch, The Millenial dilemma – Gillian McCann, and Gitte U Bechsgaard * Millennials who leave home before moving back in are causing havoc for their families – Emilia Mazza * Millennials May Never Be Able To Move Out Of Their Parents’ Homes.

From Italy to Britain to Canada, more and more millennials are failing to launch and remain at home well into their thirties.

If the child cannot move into adulthood their parents also cannot move onto the next stage of their lives.

No one is saying we need to return to early marriages but clearly our rites of passage have not kept up with the times.

When an adult child moves back home after they’ve left, parents can start to feel resentful, especially if their child is acting the same way they did before they left home.

“Puer Aeternus: Someone who remains too long in adolescent psychology.” Marie-Louise Von Franz

It is disturbing to think we have come to this but without an alternative it is likely we will see more court cases where parents take extreme measures in order to launch their adult children.

Recently the eyes of the world were riveted on a court case in Upstate New York. At the centre of the media storm was a couple, pictured sitting stoically in a courtroom, who were using the legal system to remove their 30-year-old son from the family home. How could it have come to this? Journalists, news anchors, and radio discjockeys rushed in to try and make sense of this story which seemed to resonate around the world.

There was good reason for British journalists to show up on the lawn of this family, this is not just an American problem. From Italy to Britain to Canada, more and more millennials are failing to launch and remain at home well into their thirties. The 2016 Canadian census showed a record-breaking 34.7% of young adults remained in the family home.

While economics, longer education times and helicopter parenting clearly have something to do with this situation we will leave those aspects to others to examine. We want to look at the psychology that is contributing to the increasingly common phenomenon of children who are seemingly unable to move into adulthood. A number of changes have occurred within our societies in the last 40 years to contribute to this seemingly baffling situation.

Beginning in the 1960s Jungian analyst Marie-Louise Von Franz gave a series of lectures on a complex that she referred to as the puer aeternus. Von Franz described this syndrome as someone who “remains too long in adolescent psychology.” At the time that she was giving these lectures this was a very rare psychological problem, but societal changes have resulted in it becoming increasingly common. Across the western world sociological surveys are registering a sea change in how people move, or don’t, into adulthood.

More and more people seem to be getting caught in the phase of adolescence in both their attitudes and lifestyles, unable to move into full adulthood. This inability has implications both for the psychological health of the individual and the well-being of their families.

If the child cannot move into adulthood their parents also cannot move onto the next stage of their lives.

What few have seemed to note amid all the public discussion is that adulthood is not a given but is defined by family, culture and society. We are not born knowing what a adult is or how one is supposed to act. However, many millennials are left without clear definitions about what a mature person would look or act like. Along with many progressive changes some of the negative impact of the 1960’s has been an obsession with youth and a suspicion of adulthood that continues to linger long after the hippie generation crossed the 30-year mark and thus were unable to trust themselves.

Contributing to this problem is the fact that many in our society have discarded the rituals that used to usher us through the different phases of life. Without these rites of passage and clearly marked changes in status it is very easy to become caught in what anthropologist van Gennep referred to as a liminal state betwixt and between. With the deciine of religious practice and community life fewer people now have access to the rites of passage that structure human and community life. As van Gennep writes, these rituais “enable the individual to pass from one defined position to another which is equaily well defined.“

Around the world there are a wide variety of usually religiously based rituals that signal to the individual, and their community that they are moving into adulthood. These range from the confirmation ceremonies of Christianity to the bar and bat mitzvahs of Judaism and the Tirundukuli of Hinduism and many more. These ceremonies witnessed by family and community, formal clothes and party are all a clear indication that the person’s status was changing. These rituals were meant to signal to their community the individuals new maturity and also to reinforce this psychologically as they took on more outer signs of independence such as a job and learning how to handle money.

Another feature of the failure to launch is that fewer and fewer people are getting married or are getting married later. For our parents’ generation the transition to adulthood happened in one fell swoop: You got married and moved out of the house often starting your own family shortly thereafter.

Michael Rotondo’s parents sued him to get him out of their house.

No one is saying we need to return to early marriages but clearly our rites of passage have not kept up with the times.

It is clear that we need as a society to determine what we mean by adulthood and then help the younger generation to makes these transitions. This requires a clear sense of what being an adult entails for example: the ability to think beyond one’s narrow selfinterest, emotional maturity, financial independence, and participation in community. If we ourselves don’t know it is impossible to expect the younger generation to embody these characteristics and they are left flailing. Life can become like a vast ocean without any markers to indicate where we are in the journey.

Lacking the ability to enforce these passages in the traditional manner the Rotondo family was forced to take it all to the next level and use the courts in order to enforce independence on their son. This may seem absurd but is perhaps not really surprising. For a period of time the Italian government was considering legislation to move their legion of mammones out of the house. In Italy currently 66% of 18-34 year olds live at home.

It is disturbing to think we have come to this but without an alternative it is likely we will see more cases where parents take extreme measures in order to launch their adult children.

The boomerang kids who are ruining their parents’ lives: Generation of millennials who leave home before moving back in are causing havoc for their families

Emilia Mazza

Adult children who move out of home and then move back, or those who simply refuse to leave the comforts of family life, are ruining parents lives.

Adult children who fly the coop and return home if their situation doesn’t work out have been dubbed the ‘Boomerang Generation’, while those who don‘t want to move out because they are at university longer or struggling with the cost of living have earned themselves the title of ‘adult-escents’, fully grown children who still live at home and act like teenagers.

Dr Justin Coulson says that although a move home by an adult child may be justified, this can have an effect on the well being of parents. He explained how research by the London School of Economics found adult children who return to the family home after leaving can cause a significant decline in their parents’ quality of life.

“Parents experience the same frustrations as they did when their kids lived at home but these seem to be multiplied because they have had a reprieve. They can start to feel as if their parenting duties have to start all over again.”

The author of 10 Things Every Parent Needs to Know said when children leave home parents enter a new phase of life, one that’s far less burdened with the responsibility of bringing up kids.

“You start to do things your way, you do things that are convenient for you when they are convenient. And you don’t have to put yourself out for anyone else anymore. When an adult child moves back home after they’ve left, parents can start to feel resentful, especially if their child is acting the same way they did before they left home. They may start to worry about who left the garbage in the bin, or who left socks under the dining table or forgot to lock the house.”

Then there is the question of who is going to contribute and how. Whether or not they are going to pay rent, if they are, will they need to be chased.

“The accumulation of these smaller problems can be a real source of tension for parents who may have been thinking they no longer needed to worry about these things. Once a child has moved out, they are considered an adult so if parents have to pick up after them again then this can be a source of frustration and difficulty.”

Dr Coulson also explained there are adult children who simply refuse to take any responsibility for their lives, despite the fact they are of an age where they could. As well as a rise in millennials moving back home, adult children were also staying at home longer because the transition to adulthood was taking longer.

“Not only are we seeing more move back in, we’re seeing fewer kids moving out in the first place… We call it “adult-essence” instead of adolescence.

Grown children who haven’t moved out might become too cosy at home; they might fail to pull their weight around the house, or not pay their way.

They’re sloppy, they don’t clean up the dishes or they won’t clean their room. We feel like they’re at uni or at work but we’re still waking them up and they’re grown ups.”

Dr Coulson said although parents could face certain challenges when children do return home, there were times when offering a child a safe place was important.

“If parents can be responsive to the reasons that have led them to moving back home then they are less likely to experience the decline in satisfaction.”

Dr Coulson’s advice on how do deal with kids who do move back

* Parents shouldn’t be afraid to ask their adult children for rent

* Establish guidelines from the outset and expect your child to adhere to these

* Allocate responsibility, this can be a weekly chore such as taking out the rubbish, moving the lawns or helping to care for younger siblings

* If you feel you are being taken advantage it is okay to ask your adult children to leave

“Just because the research says you will be unhappy doesn’t mean we should say no to our kids if they have struck a difficult situation. We need to remember to be compassionate and offer to help.”

One important thing parents need to watch out for is a child who is trying to take advantage of the situation. Some kids are just looking for a free ride and that’s when the resentment and negative feelings can come up even more. If we can establish effective guidelines, living with adult children can be fantastic, they can contribute financially, do certain chores or babysit younger kids.

“It really doesn’t have to be bad but it comes down to having conversations from the outset, and being clear that if they don’t live up to these expectations it’s okay to ask them to leave.”

Millennials May Never Be Able To Move Out Of Their Parents’ Homes – Narcity

Studies show that millennials are, well, screwed.

‘Generation Screwed’ is the latest epithet assigned to millennials by boomers, and while it may be a rather harsh characterization, it does bear some truth. While it’s common for young adults to move back home with their parents after university, many of them are staying there for longer than expected, and sometimes it’s for reasons that are beyond their control.

Often times the current circumstances just don’t work in their favour. While the economy is somewhat looking up, graduates today are still faced with an unwelcoming job market and a real estate situation that is more volatile than ever. The combination of these two factors makes it difficult for millennials to establish the stable footing they require to leave the nest.

Most Canadian millennials have difficulty finding a job, with the unemployment rate for 15 to 24 year olds at a concerning 13.2%. Those that do manage to find work (that is, 48% of young Canadian adults), often land parttime or precarious jobs that end up being nothing more than temporary gigs. And those who can’t land a job at all resort to unpaid positions that garner as many as 300,000 willing interns across the country.

Without stable work, other life milestones like getting married or owning a house become fleeting fantasies rather than achievable ideals. It doesn’t help that the real estate market in Canada is out of control. According to the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), national sales are to drop by 3.3% this year, with the average price of a home in Canada now being more than $500,000. The millennials that do move out resort to renting; but even that presents some financial burden with rent increases doubling in some areas.

All of this is to say that those who stay at home with one’s parents shouldn’t automatically be misjudged as lazy and entitled individuals. Because the reality is that, for many people, staying home isn’t a choice, it’s necessity.

ORIGINS OF HATE. Bring the War Home. The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America – Kathleen Belew.

“WE NEED EVERY ONE OF YOU,” proclaimed an anonymous 1985 article in a major white power newspaper. “We need every branch of fighting, militant whites. We are too few right now to excommunicate each other…. Whatever will save our race is what we will do!”

White power activists increasingly saw the state as their enemy. Many pursued the idea of an all-white, racial nation. The militant rallying cry “white power,” which echoed in all corners of the movement, was its most accurate self-descriptor.

Movement leader Louis Beam urged activists to continue fighting the Vietnam War on American soil. He referred to two wars: the one he had fought in Vietnam and the white revolution he hoped to wage in the United States.

In the wake of military failure in Southeast Asia, masculinity provided an ideological frame for the New Right, challenged antiwar sentiment, and idealized bygone and invented familial and gender orders throughout American society. The white power movement capitalized on this wave of broader cultural paramilitarism for its own, violent ends.

Conventional politics was unsalvageable and signaled a state of emergency that could not be resolved through political action alone. Their paramilitary infrastructure stood ready; the war could not wait.

The white power movement sought revolution and separation, the founding of a racial utopian nation.

A large contingent of white power activists in the post-Vietnam moment believed in white supremacy as a component of religious faith. Christian Identity congregations heard their pastors explain that whites were the true lost tribe of Israel and that nonwhites and Jews were descended from Satan or from animals.

White power violence reached a climax in the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

War is not neatly contained in the space and time legitimated by the state. It reverberates in other terrains and lasts long past armistice. It comes home in ways bloody and unexpected.

The article spoke of emergency and government treachery. It foretold imminent apocalyptic race war. It called to believers in white supremacist congregations, to Klansmen and southern separatists, and to neoNazis. The white power movement united a wide array of groups and activists previously at odds, thrown together by tectonic shifts in the cultural and political landscape. Narratives of betrayal and crisis cemented their alliances.

Though often described by others as “white nationalist” and by its members as patriotic, this movement did not seek to defend the American nation, even when it celebrated some elements of US. history and identity. Instead white power activists increasingly saw the state as their enemy.

Many pursued the idea of an all-white, racial nation, one that transcended national borders to unite white people from the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, South Africa, and beyond. The militant rallying cry “white power,” which echoed in all corners of the movement, was its most accurate self-descriptor.

At the end of the tumultuous 1970s, in the wake of the Vietnam War and in the midst of economic turmoil and widespread distrust of public institutions, the white power movement consolidated and expanded. In these turbulent years, many Americans lost faith in the state that they had trusted to take care of them. Loss in Vietnam and the Watergate scandal undermined their confidence in elected officials and besmirched the presidency itself. As legislation dramatically increased immigration, many worried that the arrival of immigrants would change the very meaning of American identity. They saw the rights movements of the 1960s redefine race and gender relations at home and at work. They noted with alarm the government’s failure to help those who lost their farms to the banks or their factories to faraway places. As the mainstream right and left took up these concerns in a variety of ways, so did this troubled social and political context incubate white power activism.

PeopIe from all regions of the country answered the white power movement’s call to action, bridging the divide between rural and urban. They were men, women, and children. They were high school dropouts and holders of advanced degrees; rich and poor; farmers and industrial workers. They were felons and religious leaders. They were civilians, veterans, and active duty military personnel.

From its formal unification in 1979 through its 1983 turn to revolutionary war on the government and its militia phase in the early 1990s, the white power movement mobilized adherents using a cohesive social network based on commonly held beliefs. These activists operated with discipline and clarity, training in paramilitary camps and undertaking assassinations, mercenary soldiering, armed robbery, counterfeiting, and weapons trafficking.

White power violence reached a climax in the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

A holistic study of the white power movement reveals a startling and unexpected origin: the aftermath of the Vietnam War.

The story activists told about Vietnam and the response to the war on the right were major forces in uniting disparate strands of American white supremacism and in sustaining that unity. As narrated by white power proponents, the Vietnam War was a story of constant danger, gore, and horror. It was also a story of soldiers’ betrayal by military and political leaders and of the trivialization of their sacrifice. This narrative facilitated intergroup alliances and increased paramilitarism within the movement, escalating violence.

In his speeches, newsletters, and influential 1983 collection Essays of a Klansman, movement leader Louis Beam urged activists to continue fighting the Vietnam War on American soil. When he exhorted readers to “bring it on home,” he meant a literal extension of military style combat into civilian space. He referred to two wars: the one he had fought in Vietnam and the white revolution he hoped to wage in the United States.

White power activists would also engage in other wars. Some would become mercenaries in military interventions ranging from Latin America to southern Africa. Others would fight in the Gulf War. Although they comprised only a small number of the combatants in these conflicts, their mercenary and active-duty soldiering assimilated them into the broader militarization and paramilitary culture that was more prominent in American society. Their ventures set the stage for later encounters, such as the sieges of separatist compounds at Ruby Ridge and Waco by militarized police forces, which would, in turn, spur the movement to its largest mass casualty.

The white power movement that emerged from the Vietnam era shared some common attributes with earlier racist movements in the United States, but it was no mere echo. Unlike previous iterations of the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacist vigilantism, the white power movement did not claim to serve the state. Instead, white power made the state its target, declaring war against the federal government in 1983. This call for revolution arrived during Ronald Reagan’s presidency, which many historians have considered the triumph of the mainstream New Right.

Antistatism in general, and hostility toward the federal government in particular, had motivated and shaped earlier conservative and reactionary mobilizations as well as the New Right itself, but white power capitalized on a larger current of discontent among conservatives.

By 1984, Time magazine had noticed a “thunder on the right”: a growing dissatisfaction, especially among evangelicals, with the distance between Reagan’s campaign promises and his policies, particularly concerning social issues that galvanized voters, such as abortion.

White power activists responded to Reagan’s first term with calls for a more extreme course of action. Reagan’s moderation, as activists saw it, revealed conventional politics as unsalvageable and signaled a state of emergency that could not be resolved through political action alone. Their paramilitary infrastructure stood ready; the war could not wait.

After declaring war, activists plotted to overthrow the government through attacks on infrastructure, assassinations, and counterfeiting to undermine public confidence in currency. They armed themselves with weapons and matériel stolen from military installations. They matched this revolutionary work with the publication and circulation of printed material, recruitment drives aimed at mainstream conservatives, political campaigns, talk show appearances, and radio programs.

These activities both disseminated a common set of beliefs, goals, and messages to the movement faithful and worked to recruit new members. In the late 1980s, many activists reorganized into militias. Although some militias disclaimed white supremacy in public, many shared funds, weapons, and personnel with white power organizations.

While white power was certainly a fringe movement, it surpassed earlier mobilizations such as the anticommunist John Birch Society. Membership alone is a poor measure of white power activity, with records often hidden, distorted, or destroyed, but nevertheless illuminates the movement’s relative size. Scholars and watchdog groups who have attempted to calculate the numbers of people in the movement’s varied branches, including, for instance, Klansmen and neoNazis, who are often counted separately, estimate that there were about 25,000 “hard-core members” in the 1980s. An additional 150,000-175,000 people bought white power literature, sent contributions to groups, or attended rallies or other events, signifying a larger, although less formal, level of membership. Another 450,000 did not themselves participate or purchase materials but read the literature. The John Birch Society, in contrast, reached only 100,000 members at its 1965 peak.

With the 1983 turn to revolution, the movement adopted a new strategy, “leaderless resistance.” Following this strategy, independent cells and activists would act without direct contact with movement leadership. The aim was to prevent the infiltration of groups, and the prosecution of organizations and individuals, by formally dissociating activists from each other and by eliminating official orders. Popularized throughout the underground, leaderless resistance changed recruitment goals, emphasizing the importance of enlisting a small number of fully committed activists rather than large groups of the less committed. This is another reason membership counts alone could not accurately convey the movement’s impact, activity, or capacity for violence.

Yet to the degree that there is power in numbers, the movement reached a new peak during its militia phase. At the height of its mainstream appeal in the mid-1990s, the militia movement counted some five million members and sympathizers, according to one watchdog analyst. That number certainly represents the upper bound of possibility, and it is likely that the white-power-identified cohort of militia members and sympathizers was significantly smaller. However, five million places the militia movement in line with the largest surge of the Ku Klux Klan, whose membership peaked in 1924 at four million.

While white power activists held worldviews that aligned or overlapped with those of mainstream conservatism, including opposition to immigration, welfare, abortion, feminism, and gay and lesbian rights, the movement was not dedicated to political conservatism aimed at preserving an existing way of life, or even to the reestablishment of bygone racial or gender hierarchies. Instead, it emphasized a radical future that could be achieved only through revolution. While some white power activists might have longed for the reinstatement of Jim Crow laws, white-minority rule as in Rhodesia and South Africa, or slavery, most agreed that such systems could not be resurrected through electoral politics alone but would have to be achieved by more drastic measures.

This abandonment of the political process reflects a profound shift in the American electorate wrought by the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which barred disenfranchisement on the basis of race. Reactionary politics, conservatism, and American nationalism had characterized the Klan in the early part of the twentieth century. The white power movement sought revolution and separation, the founding of a racial utopian nation.

Many activists connected ideas of a radical political future with belief in imminent apocalypse. The theologies espoused by white power activists in this period differed significantly from the Protestantism of the reactionary second-era Klan that peaked in the 1920s. White power religious radicalism emerged in part from Cold War understandings of communism as a threat to Christianity. At the same time, a large contingent of white power activists in the post-Vietnam moment believed in white supremacy as a component of religious faith. Christian Identity congregations heard their pastors explain that whites were the true lost tribe of Israel and that nonwhites and Jews were descended from Satan or from animals. Other racist churches adopted similar theologies that lauded whiteness as holy and sought to preserve the white race. Activists also adopted Odinism and other forms of neoPagan white supremacy that posited a shared, pan-European white cultural heritage.

The movement’s religious extremism was integral to its broader revolutionary character. While increasingly politicized evangelical congregations espoused belief in the rapture, a foretold moment when the faithful would be peacefully transported from the world as the apocalyptic end times began Christian Identity and other white theologies offered believers no such guarantees of safety. Instead, they held that the faithful would be tasked with ridding the world of the unfaithful, the world’s nonwhite and Jewish population, before the return of Christ. At the very least, the faithful would have to outlast the great tribulation, a period of bloodshed and strife.

Many movement followers prepared by becoming survivalists: stocking food and learning to administer medical care. Other proponents of white cosmologies saw it as their personal responsibility to amass arms and train themselves to take part in a coming end-times battle that would take the shape of race war.

A war of this scale and urgency demanded that partisans set aside their differences. The movement therefore was flexible in its adoption of racist symbols and beliefs. A Klansman in the South might participate in burning crosses, wear the white robe and hood, and embrace the Confederate battle flag alongside a Lost Cause narrative of the Civil War. A neo-Nazi in the North might march under the banner of the swastika and don an SS uniform. But the once disparate approaches to white supremacy represented by these symbols and ideas were drawn together in the white power movement. A suburban California skinhead might bear Klan tattoos, read Nazi tracts, and attend meetings of a local Klan chapter, a National Socialist political party, the militant White Aryan Resistance, or all three. At the Aryan Nations compound in northern Idaho, Klansmen and neo-Nazis ignited both crosses and swastikas as they heard Christian Identity sermons and speakers from an array of white power groups. Activists circulated among groups and belief systems, each of which might include theological, political, and pseudoscientific varieties of racism, antisemitism, and antifeminism.

Amid this multiplicity of symbolic presentations and beliefs, most white power activists found common ground. They believed in white supremacy and the need for a white homeland.

They feared that the government would eradicate the white population through interference with the birth of white children, through interracial marriage, rape, birth control, abortion, and immigration. The antisemitism long espoused by the Klan was reinforced by neo-Nazis. And the movement adopted a strict set of gender and familial roles, particularly regarding the sexual and supportive behavior of white women and their protection by white men.

Another unifying feature of the movement was its strident anticommunism, which at first aligned with mainstream Cold War conservatism and then transformed into an apocalyptic, antiinternationalist, antisemitic set of beliefs and conspiracy theories about what activists called the Zionist Occupational Government (ZOG) and, later, the New World Order.

Increasingly, white power activists believed that the Jewish-Ied ZOG controlled the United Nations, the US. federal government, and the banks, and that ZOG used people of color, communists, liberals, journalists, academics, and other enemies of the movement as puppets in a conspiracy to eradicate the white race and its economic, social, and cultural accomplishments.

To confront this grave threat, activists organized as a paramilitary army and adopted masculine cultural forms. The article that levied the plea “We Need Every One of You” was titled “White Soldier Boy” for a reason. It targeted young white men, not women, for recruitment into the presumptively male world of camouflage fatigues, military-style camps and drills, and military-grade weapons. It also spoke directly to combat veterans and active-duty military personnel.

In this respect, white power can be understood as an especially extreme and violent manifestation of larger social forces that wed masculinity with militancy, in the form of paintball, war movies, gun shows, and magazines such as Soldier of Fortune that were aimed at armchair and weekend warriors. This is not to suggest that such cultural forms were coequal with white power, or with conservatism more broadly. But it is not by coincidence that white power gathered steam amid the wider post-Vietnam “remasculinization of America.” In the wake of military failure in Southeast Asia, masculinity provided an ideological frame for the New Right, challenged antiwar sentiment, and idealized bygone and invented familial and gender orders throughout American society. The white power movement capitalized on this wave of broader cultural paramilitarism for its own, violent ends.

However, the white power movement departed from mainstream paramilitary culture in carving out an important place for women, relied on as symbols of the cause and as activists in their own right. As bearers of white children, women were essential to the realization of white power’s mission: to save the race from annihiiation. More concretely, their supporting roles, auxiliary organizations, and recruiting skills sustained white power as a social movement. They brokered social relationships that cemented intergroup alliances and shaped the movement from within.

In all these ways, its unity, revolutionary commitments, organizing strategy, anticommunist focus, and Vietnam War inheritance, white power was something new. Yet it has often been misunderstood as a simple resurgence of earlier Klan activity. Historians divide the Klan into “eras,” with the first following the Civil War, the second in the 1920s, and the third dedicated to opposing the civil rights movement. To understand white power as a Klan resurgence rests upon an artificial distinction between nonviolent and violent activism, in which the socalled fourth era refers to nonviolent, publicsphere activities, such as rallies and political campaigns, and the fifth era to the criminal activity of a secret, violent underground. This terminology arose from the white power movement itself and evokes previous surges in Klan membership that occurred one after another with lulls between. But the supposed fourth and fifth eras occurred simultaneously. This terminology therefore hinders an understanding of the activism it attempts to describe.

White power should be recognized as something broader than the Klan, encompassing a wider range of ideologies and operating simultaneously in public and underground. Such an understanding is vital lest we erroneously equate white power with covert violence and thereby ignore its significant inroads into mainstream society, which hardly came under cover of night. Activists such as David Duke mounted political campaigns that influenced local and national elections. They produced a vibrant print culture with crossover appeal that reached more mainstream readers. They traveled from church to church, linking religious belief with white power ideology. They created a series of computer message boards to further their cause. They pursued social ties between groups, cementing their political affinities with one another through marriages and other intimate bonds.

These political activists were often the same people who trained in paramilitary camps, plotted race war, and carried out criminal and terrorist acts. The death toll included journalists, state and federal employees, political opponents, and white power activists themselves. The Oklahoma City bombing, undertaken by movement activists, killed 168 people, making it the largest deliberate mass casualty on American soil between the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the terrorist attacks of September 11 , 2001.

But the body count alone cannot fully account for the effects of white power violence. That number ignores the lives disrupted by the movement’s rage. The dead left behind grieving, struggling families. And while many were physically attacked, many others were threatened. It would be impossible to tally those who were harassed and wounded emotionally, left too afraid to speak or work. But these wounds, too, bear out the long and broad ramifications of the movement’s violence.

Although the movement’s militancy, and therefore its violence, owes much to the rightwing framing of the Vietnam War, other elements of the 1970s also infused the movement. White power also responded to the changing meaning of the state, sovereignty, and liberal institutions in and after that decade. The dramatic, hard-won gains of feminism, civil rights, secularism, and gay liberation left the 1970s ripe for conservative backlash.

Another factor was emerging economic threat. The post-World War II welfare state had promised jobs, education, and health, but, beginning in 1973, a series of economic shocks displaced the expectation of continued growth and prosperity. An oil crisis brought about the realization that natural resources would not always be cheap and plentiful? Wealth inequality grew and unemployment rose. For the first time since the late 1940s, the promise of prosperity stalled.

Dwindling economic prospects became bound up with cultural backlash. Volition and need alike drove more women into the workforce, threatening both men’s exclusive access to certain jobs and the Cold War-era vision of the suburban, white nuclear family with a wife who stayed at home. The successful civil rights mobilizations of the 1960s gave way to white resistance as news coverage turned to black radicalism, urban riots, and integration. Forced busing of children to integrated public schools became a heated issue, and whites fought back both through school privatization and in heated public protest.

In this context, defense of the family intertwined with defense of free-market ideology. As the stark limitations of New Deal liberalism became clearer, and as civil rights laws made it more difficult to deny opportunities and benefits to nonwhites just as an economic downturn set in, the state could be recast as a menace to morality and prosperity? For many Americans, the state became the enemy. White power activists, driven by their narrative of the Vietnam War, took this sentiment to the extreme in calling for revolution.

Some have argued that white power did not properly constitute a social movement. This claim typically turns on a supposed disconnect between white power and the militia wave, or on a narrow definition of social movements that rests on centralized leadership and harmony among members. But social movement theorists attuned to the grassroots mobilizations of the mid to late twentieth century make the case for a more encompassing definition.

While white power featured a diversity of views and an array of competing leaders, all corners of the movement were inspired by feelings of defeat, emasculation, and betrayal after the Vietnam War and by social and economic changes that seemed to threaten and victimize white men.

White power also qualifies as a social movement through its central features: the contiguous activity of an inner circle of key figures over two decades, frequent public displays, and development of a wide reaching social network. White power activists used a shared repertoire of actions to assert collectivity. They rallied openly, formed associations and coalitions, and gave statements to the press. Public displays of uniformed activists chanting slogans and marching in formation aimed to demonstrate worthiness, unity, numbers, and commitment to both members and observers.

Activists encouraged dress codes and rules about comportment and featured the presence of mothers with children, Vietnam veterans, and active-duty military personnel. Members showed unity by donning uniforms and by marching and chanting in formation. They made claims about their numbers. They underscored their commitment with pledges to die rather than abandon the fight; preparing to risk their lives for white power; and undertaking acts that put them at legal and physical risk. A regular circulation of people, weapons, funds, images, and rhetoric, as well as intermarriages and other social relationships, bound activists together. These actions produced common “ideas and culture,” what social movement theorists have called “frames,” that served to “legitimate and motivate collective action.”

The primacy of the Vietnam War among these frames is clear in the cultural artifacts that inspired and coordinated the movement. These included uniforms, language, strategies, and matériel derived from the war itself. Activists adopted terminology, such as “gooks,” associated with US. soldiers in Vietnam; camouflage fatigues; civilian versions of the era’s military weapons, as well as the genuine articles, sometimes illegally obtained; and training and combat methods modeled on soldiers’ experience and US. Army manuals.

Also essential in binding the movement together was the 1974 white utopian novel The Turner Diaries, which channeled and responded to the nascent white power narrative of the Vietnam War. The novel provided a blueprint for action, tracing the structure of leaderless resistance and modeling, in fiction, the guerrilla tactics of assassination and bombing that activists would embrace for the next two decades. Activists distributed and quoted from the book frequently. It was more than a guide, though. The popularity of The Turner Diaries made it a touchstone, a point of connection among movement members and sympathizers that brought them together in common cause.

Writing the history of a subversive movement presents archival challenges. White power activists routinely attempted to hide their activity, even when it was legal. Documentary resources are scattered and fragmentary. This is especially true of the period after 1983, when white power activists worked particularly hard to avoid being depicted as a coherent movement. They used old Klan strategies such as maintaining secret membership rolls, as well as new ideas such as cell-style organizing. Such strategies foiled government informants and forestalled public awareness of violence, obscuring the scale and intentions of the movement and limiting opposition. Activists understated or denied their involvement to protect themselves and their allies. But when they felt it useful, they also overstated their influence and membership in order to boost their apparent strength.

This deliberate obfuscation has clouded many journalistic and scholarly accounts. Press coverage too often portrayed organized white power violence as the work of lone gunmen driven by grievance and mental illness. Sensational truecrime and undercover reporting in pulp magazines and one-source interviews in small-town newspapers kept activists safely ensconced within their cells and depicted every case of violence as uniquely senseless. Thus groups went undetected, and the motivations underlying violence were rarely taken seriously. Accounts after the Oklahoma City bombing concluded that if white power had ever constituted a social movement, it had become so riddled by interand intragroup conflicts and personal vendettas that it no longer deserved the designation. Yet infighting had been a constant feature of white power formation and activity. White power organizing did change in the late 1990s, but this resulted from large-scale historical shifts such as increased pressure and expanding online activity, not internecine feuds.

Not all journalistic accounts of white power were so flawed. Veteran reporters from the Christian Science Monitor, the Oregonian, and the Houston Chronicle, among others, spent years covering white power on their beats and began to connect local episodes to activity elsewhere. And even the one-off accounts can be useful to the historian because white power activists sometimes spoke to undercover reporters directly and contemporaneously about their motivations.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), U.S. Marshal Service, and Department of Justice monitored the white power movement during this period, generating another source of archival materials. Authors of these records range from undercover agents who had deep familiarity with white power groups to clerical staff at the tail end of a long game of telephone, who sometimes misunderstood crucial details. The motivations of federal agents, some prevented crimes and mounted major prosecutions; others declined to report, prevent, or prosecute such groups; yet others unleashed their own violence upon separatist compounds, shaped these records as well, affecting their reliability. Government documents also vary widely in their level of redaction. Many such sources are accessible only through Freedom of Information Act requests, which means that not everything the government collected is available to researchers. Even full access would provide but a partial glimpse of white power activity, filtered through state interests and the perspectives of individual state actors.

When it comes to the flourishing of white power activism in prisons, sources are especially limited. Groups such as the prison gang the Aryan Brotherhood are largely absent from the archive.

We can detect some effects of their mobilizations, such as monetary contributions sent beyond prison walls. Members who joined the movement while incarcerated and continued their activism after release also have greater presence in available sources. But much less is known about white power mobilizations within prison walls.

Legal documents, too, provide less information than we might hope, particularly because the white power movement flourished between the end of excellent paper record keeping and the beginning of effective digitization of documents. While several acts of white power violence and harassment have resulted in civil and criminal prosecutions, many resources from those trials have been lost or destroyed, in whole or in part. Some of what remains can be obtained only at prohibitive expense. And what is available comes with the same complications as any trial record. Some people who testified about their roles in the movement, especially women, may have done so under the threat of separation from their families. Several activists made plea deals in return for testifying against the movement. Legal documents, especially testimonies, must be read with such motivations in mind.

An important source of information about the movement is the opposition. Watchdog groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Center for Democratic Renewal collected material on white power activists as part of their mission to combat intolerance. Some compiled extensive databases including biographical information, photographs, news clippings, and legal records. They also obtained photographs, transcriptions of conversations from undercover informants, journalists’ notes, and other items outside the published record. Although these files are rich with information, they, too, must be treated cautiously. Watchdog groups can have motives that reach beyond simple documentation: they exist through fundraising, and donations may increase when there is a sense of urgency. Watchdog groups may have sometimes overestimated the movement’s influence and level of organization.

A final, essential resource is the archive created by the white power movement itself. This includes correspondence, ephemera, illustrations, autobiographies, books, printed periodicals, and “zines.” Some printed material circulated widely and had a transnational readership. Activists selfpublished their writings on presses, mimeograph and Xerox machines, and the Internet. Large collections of these published materials are housed at three university libraries in the United States. Although these collections are fundamentally different, one assembled by a journalist writing on an episode of movement violence, one by an archivist who asked political extremists from across the spectrum for contributions, and one by collectors who obtained literature at meetings of extremist groups, the materials in these three archives are remarkably similar. They offer, therefore, a fairly complete picture of the movement’s printed output.

At the same time, one must be mindful of what an archival study of white power cannot reveal. Military service records, for instance, are not publicly available, nor are the membership rolls of each white power group. In their absence, one cannot make a quantitative study of the levels of veteran and active-duty-military participation in the movement. The archive offers very little information on the childhood and early life of most activists. Information on marriages and divorces, particularly involving those who, as part of their antistatist activism, refused to register unions, cannot always be corroborated by official documents. Nor can an archival study stray from the stated beliefs and concrete actions of white power actors in an effort to attempt a psychological assessment. In most cases, the historian has neither the training nor the access to enter this discussion. However, one can grapple with the record of speech and action to offer an approximation of a historical actor’s motives and actions.

Given these limitations, I have assumed that each document might reflect a particular agenda and have taken certain precautions as a result. When possible, I use multiple sources to corroborate information. If, say, a fact appears in a redacted FBI file, an undercover reporter’s interview with a white power activist, and a mainstream press report, it probably can be relied upon. I present unverifiable statements as such and identify those that are demonstrably false.

When relevant, I include information about sources, their biases, and possible alternative interpretations of the material in question.

That the archive is imperfect should disturb neither historians nor readers. Indeed, it is precisely the work of the historian to assemble an account based upon the information available, even if it is scattered, incomplete, and sometimes contradictory. In many ways, this approach enables a better understanding of how historical actors experienced their own moment, without the veneer of hindsight that clouds other kinds of accounts, such as interviews and memoirs produced years after the fact.

A sizable literature, both academic and journalistic, has engaged with portions of the white power archive, but this book is the first work to attempt a comprehensive approach. Unlike studies focused on one segment of white power, particular activists, events, locations, symbols, ideological discourses, or disputes-this one captures the entire movement as it formed and changed over time.

I find in the archival sources the story of the emergence, rise, and fall of a unique, cohesive effort to build a new nation on the ashes of a state accused of having abandoned its own. To understand the impact of this effort on American society, politics, and culture, and to take stock of its relationship with mainstream conservatism, requires engaging it synthetically, not piece by piece.

Bring the War Home follows the formation of the white power movement, its war on the state, and its apocalyptic confrontation with militarized state power. Part I documents the role of violence in motivating and constituting the movement. Chapter 1 traces the creation of a Vietnam War narrative that united the movement and inspired its paramilitary culture and infrastructure. Chapter 2 shows how paramilitary training camps worked to form white power groups and augmented their capacity for violence. In Chapter 3, I discuss the formal unification of the movement through a common experience of violence: the 1979 mass shooting of communist protestors in Greensboro, North Carolina. Chapter 4 documents the intersections between white power and other forms of paramilitarism by focusing on transnational antidemocratic paramilitary combat by mercenary soldiers, some with movement ties.

Part II turns to the white power revolution declared in 1983. At this point, the movement definitively distinguished itself from previous vigilante mobilizations, such as the earlier Ku Klux Klan, whose perpetrators claimed to act for the good of the state or to uphold its laws. In Chapters 5 through 7, I examine the movement’s declaration of war, use of early computer networks, and deployment of cell-style organizing. Critical to these efforts were attempts, some successful, to obtain stolen military-grade weapons and materiel from the state. I also recount the acquittal of thirteen movement activists on federal charges including seditious conspiracy. Their defense, based on a purported need to protect white women, demonstrates that even though white power broke away from earlier white supremacist movements, it maintained a degree of ideological and rhetorical continuity with them, even as it turned to newly violent antistatism in its revolutionary actions.

Part III describes the crescendo and climax of white power revolution in which groups both confronted and participated in events characterized by apocalyptic, world-destroying violence. Although many were killed and others were harmed, the effort never achieved the biblical scale activists had anticipated. The movement was inflamed by encounters with state power, such as the standoff between federal agents and a white separatist family at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and the siege of the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas.

Cataclysmic, militarized state violence helped to inspire the growth of militias, leading to the Oklahoma City bombing. That act stands as the culmination of two decades of white power organizing and is the most significant single event in the movement’s history.

The bombing destroyed an edifice, lives, and families, but not only those. It also shattered meaning, wiping out a public understanding of the white power movement by cementing its violence, in public memory, as the act of a few men. Despite its many attempts to disappear, and despite its obscurity even at the height of its strength during the militia phase, the movement left lasting marks on mainstream American politics and popular culture. It has continued to instigate and shape violence years after the Oklahoma City bombing.

The story of white power as a social movement exposes something broader about the enduring impact of state violence in America. It reveals one catastrophic ricochet of the Vietnam War, in the form of its paramilitary aftermath. It also reveals something important about war itself.

War is not neatly contained in the space and time legitimated by the state. It reverberates in other terrains and lasts long past armistice. It comes home in ways bloody and unexpected.

1 The Vietnam War

Forever trapped in the rice paddies of Vietnam. -Louis Beam, 1989

LOUIS BEAM SPENT eighteen months in Vietnam. He served an extended tour as a gunner on a UH1 Huey helicopter in the U.S. Army’s 25th Aviation Battalion. He logged more than a thousand hours shooting at the enemy and transporting his fellow soldiers, including the injured and fallen, to and from the front. By his own account, he killed between twelve and fifty-one “communists” before returning home to Texas, decorated, in 1968. But he never stopped fighting. Beam would use his Vietnam War story to militarize a resurgent Ku Klux Klan and to wage a white power revolution.

He brought many things home with him: his uniforms, virulent anticommunism, and hatred of the Viet Cong. He brought home the memory of death and mutilation sealed in heavy-duty body bags. He brought home racism, military training, weapons proficiency, and a readiness to continue fighting. His was a story about government betrayal, soldiers left behind, and a nation that spat upon his service and would never appreciate his sacrifice. Indeed, he brought home the war as he fought it, and dedicated his life to urging others to “bring it on home.”

On both the right and left of the political spectrum, the war worked to radicalize and arm paramilitary groups in the post-Vietnam War period. On the left, veterans played instrumental roles in groups organized around politics and labor, and in militant groups that fought racial inequality, such as the Black Panther Party. Occasionally these left and right-wing mobilizations would overlap and feed off one another, with white power activists robbing the same Brinks armored car company hit by the leftwing Weather Underground a few years earlier, and with the paramilitary Latino Brown Berets and the Klan Border Watch focused on the same stretch of terrain in South Texas.

Throughout the twentieth century, many veterans of color understood their postwar activism as an extension of their wartime combat. Veterans played key roles in fostering the civil rights and armed seIf-defense movements. The influence of key veterans upon the white power movement, therefore, is part of a longer story about veterans’ claims on society, and about the expansive aftermath of modern war.

Just as some veterans fought for racial equality, others fought to oppose it. Indeed, Ku Klux Klan membership surges have aligned more neatly with the aftermath of war than with poverty, anti-immigration sentiment, or populism, to name a few common explanations.

After the Civil War, the Confederate veterans who formed the first Klan terrorized both black communities and the Reconstruction-era state. World War I veterans led second-era Klan efforts to violently ensure “all American” racial, religious, and nationalist power. Third-era Klansmen who had served in World War II and Korea played key roles in the violent opposition to civil rights, including providing explosives expertise and other skills they had learned in the military.

After each war, veterans not only joined the Klan but also played instrumental roles in leadership, providing military training to other Klansmen and carrying out acts of violence. The effect of war was not simply about the number or percentage of veterans involved, but about the particular expertise, training, and culture they brought to paramilitary groups. Significantly, in each surge of activity, veterans worked hand in hand with Klan members who had not served. Without the participation of civilians, these aftershocks of war would not have found purchase at home. The overspills of state violence from wars, therefore, spread through the whole of American society; they did not affect veterans alone.

So, too, did the Vietnam War broadly affect American culture and politics. Narratives of the war as a government betrayal and as a source of grievance laid the groundwork for white power activism. Once again, the war story drew in both veterans and civilians. But the Vietnam War was also historically distinct; it represented loss, frustration, and doubt.

By intervening to support South Vietnam, the United States sought to halt the spread of communism, and to stop the Soviet Union, which supported North Vietnam and revolutionaries in the South, from amassing global power in the midst of the Cold War. In practice, the United States found itself intervening in a local, civil conflict, one shaped by the legacy of French colonial rule. American soldiers entered a morally ambiguous proxy war and faced an enemy comprising highly motivated guerrillas, partisan soldiers, and supportive or ambivalent civilians. This, together with enormous differences in culture and climate, created high levels of despair among the troops.

Combat in Vietnam often took a form unfamiliar to a generation of soldiers raised on World War II films that depicted war as righteous and tempered depictions of its violence. In Vietnam, American soldiers waged prolonged, bloody fights for terrain that was soon abandoned. They often described enemies and allies as indistinguishable. Infantry patrols embarked on long, aimless marches in the hope of drawing fire from hidden guerrillas. “Freefire zones” and “strategic hamlets”, designations that labeled as enemies anyone who did not evacuate from certain areas, placed civilians in the path of war.

And because success was often measured in the number of people killed, rather than in terrain held, a mix of circumstances in Vietnam created a situation in which violence against civilians, mutilation of bodies, souvenir collecting, sexual violence, and other war crimes were not just isolated incidents but ubiquitous features of war that permeated the chain of command.

The United States and its people had understood the wars of the first half of the century as shared civil projects, but the Vietnam War undermined this notion. When the commitment of soldiers, bombs, and money failed to produce decisive victories in Southeast Asia, civilians at home grew increasingly disenchanted with the war, helping to foster the narrative of abandonment that white power activists such as Beam would later exploit.

Mobilizations of protest in the United States, particularly the mass antiwar movement, openly questioned the war’s morality by critiquing American involvement as an imperialist exercise. Television broadcasts of wartime violence created what the writer Susan Sontag called a “new tele-intimacy with death and destruction.” Many returning veterans denounced the quagmire of war both in the streets and in the halls of government, and journalists documented wartime atrocities. As the war dragged on, victory in the realm of public perception seemed less and less possible.

*

from

Bring the War Home. The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America

by Kathleen Belew

get it at Amazon.com

FINDING THE MONEY, Modern Monetary Theory – Bryan Gould.

Most of the money in our economy sits in bank accounts, and a large proportion of that money is created by the banks when they make loans, usually on mortgage.

Money, in a developed economy, is what the government says it is.

Governments all around the world have over recent years pursued policies of “quantitative easing”, and on a very large scale and “quantitative easing” is just another way of describing the creation of new money.

So, the chickens are coming home to roost, and with a vengeance. The tragedy for the new government is that the chickens were bred and raised by the previous government, and are only now flying in, in large numbers and with hefty price tags.

We are now getting some idea of the price that has to be paid for those ”business-friendly” policies that were celebrated for their success in producing a “surplus” (at least for the government).

That price includes large numbers of underpaid public servants nurses, teachers, midwives, care workers, Inland Revenue workers and underfunded public services health care, schools, keeping our water and rivers clean, and bio-security at our borders. The bio-security failure alone will cost the current government around $900 million the amount awarded by the courts for the previous government’s negligence in allowing PSA to decimate the kiwifruit industry (and that’s to say nothing of the cost of the myco plasma bovis outbreak).

Through no fault of its own, the new government is having to pay up for the mess made by its predecessor, and that costs money that cannot, it seems, be easily found. Every dollar paid to clean up the mess is said to be a dollar less for the government’s real aims to improve our public services, to rescue our environment, to save families from poverty, to provide recent housing for everyone.

But is that really the case? There may be other shortages labour or land, or skills or technology, or materials but a shortage of money should not be one of them. How do we know that? Because, as an increasing number of experts recognise, and as our own experience teaches us, the government of a sovereign country need never be short of money.

This is because money, in a developed economy, is what the government says it is. Indeed, it is often called fiat money because it exists only by the sayso of the government and, as the economist, Ann Pettifor, says, that means that “we can afford what we can do.”

Most of the money in our economy sits in bank accounts, and a large proportion of that money is created by the banks when they make loans, usually on mortgage. The fact that the commercial banks create over 90% of the money in circulation out of nothing is still disputed by some (including by those who should know better) but is now attested to by the world’s central banks, by top monetary economists (such as Lord Adair Turner, former Chair of the UK’s Financial Services Authority and a leading advocate of “helicopter money”) and by leading economic journals such as the Financial Times and The Economist.

This raises the question if the banks are allowed to create money out of nothing (and then to charge interest on it), why should governments be inhibited about doing so? And indeed, they are not so inhibited, governments all around the world have over recent years pursued policies of “quantitative easing”, and on a very large scale and “quantitative easing” is just another way of describing the creation of new money.

The money created in this way has been directed to building up the balance sheets of the banks in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis, but there is no reason why it should not be applied to other (and more productive) purposes as it has been in many countries, as well as New Zealand, in the past. Japan, for example, both today and immediately after the Second World War, used this technique to get their economy moving and to build the strength of their manufacturing industry; in doing so, they followed the precepts of the great Japanese economist, Osamu Shimomura, who is virtually unknown in the West.

The Chinese government today follows similar policies. President Roosevelt in the US did likewise, before the US entered the Second World War, so as to build the strength of American industry and military capability; and, in New Zealand, Michael Joseph Savage authorised the Reserve Bank to issue interest-free credit in the 1930s so as to take us out of recession and finance the building of thousands of state houses.

All that inhibits our current government from using this technique is the fear that some will disapprove and regard it as taking risks with infiation. But, as John Maynard Keynes observed, “there may be good reasons for a shortage of land but there are no good reasons for a shortage of capital.” He went on to say that, if an increase in the money supply is applied to productive purposes so that output is increased, it cannot be inflationary.

As the new Labour-led government faces financial constraints not of its own making, why not emulate Michael Joseph Savage and authorise the issuing of interest-free credit to be applied to investment in stimulating new production? The Provincial Growth Fund would seem to be an ideal vehicle; funding investment in new infrastructure in this way would free up financial resources that could then be applied to current expenditure, such as paying the nurses and teachers what they deserve.

Our natural world is disappearing before our eyes. We have to save it – George Monbiot.

The creatures we feared our grandchildren wouldn’t see have vanished: its happened faster than even pessimists predicted.

Our use of natural resources has tripled in 40 years. The great expansion of mining, logging, meat production and industrial fishing is cleansing the planet of its wild places and natural wonders.

It felt as disorienting as forgetting my pin number. I stared at the caterpillar, unable to attach a name to it. I don’t think my mental powers are fading: I still possess an eerie capacity to recall facts and figures and memorise long screeds of text. This is a specific loss. As a child and young adult, I delighted in being able to identify almost any wild plant or animal. And now it has gone. This ability has shrivelled from disuse: I can no longer identify them because I can no longer find them.

Perhaps this forgetfulness is protective. I have been averting my eyes. Because I cannot bear to see what we have done to nature, I no longer see nature itself; otherwise, the speed of loss would be unendurable. The collapse can be witnessed from one year to the next.

The swift decline of the swift (down 25% in five years) is marked by the loss of the wild screams that, until very recently, filled the skies above my house. My ambition to see the seabird colonies of Shetland and St Kilda has been replaced by the intention never to visit those islands during the breeding season: I could not bear to see the empty cliffs, where populations have crashed by some 90% in the past two decades.

I have lived long enough to witness the vanishing of wild mammals, butterflies, mayflies, songbirds and fish that I once feared my grandchildren would not experience: it has all happened faster than even the pessimists predicted. Walking in the countryside or snorkelling in the sea is now as painful to me as an art lover would find visits to a gallery, if on every occasion another old master had been cut from its frame.

The cause of this acceleration is no mystery. The United Nations reports that our use of natural resources has tripled in 40 years. The great expansion of mining, logging, meat production and industrial fishing is cleansing the planet of its wild places and natural wonders. What economists proclaim as progress, ecologists recognise as ruin.

This is what has driven the quadrupling of oceanic dead zones since 1950; the “biological annihilation” represented by the astonishing collapse of vertebrate populations; the rush to carve up the last intact forests; the vanishing of coral reefs, glaciers and sea ice; the shrinkage of lakes, the drainage of wetlands. The living world is dying of consumption.

We have a fatal weakness: failure to perceive incremental change. As natural systems shift from one state to another, we almost immediately forget what we have lost. I have to make a determined effort to remember what I saw in my youth. Could it really be true that every patch of nettles, at this time of year, was reamed with caterpillar holes? That flycatchers were so common I scarcely gave them a second glance? That the rivers, around the autumn equinox, were almost black with eels?

Others seem oblivious. When I have criticised current practice, farmers have sent me images of verdant monocultures of perennial ryegrass, with the message: “Look at this and try telling me we don’t look after nature.”

It’s green, but it’s about as ecologically rich as an airport runway.

One reader, Michael Groves, records the shift he has seen in the field beside his house, where the grass that used to be cut for hay is now cut for silage. Watching the cutters being driven at great speed across the field, he realised that any remaining wildlife would be shredded. Soon afterwards, he saw a roe deer standing in the mown grass. She stayed throughout the day and the following night. When he went to investigate, he found her fawn, its legs amputated. “I felt sickened, angry and powerless how long had it taken to die?” That “grass-fed meat” the magazines and restaurants fetishise? This is the reality.

When our memories are wiped as clean as the land, we fail to demand its restoration. Our forgetting is a gift to industrial lobby groups and the governments that serve them. Over the past few months I have been told repeatedly that the environment secretary, Michael Gove, gets it. I have said so myself: he genuinely seems to understand what the problems are and what needs to be done. Unfortunately, he doesn’t do it.

Gove cannot be blamed for all of the fiascos to which he has put his name. The 25-year plan for nature was, it seems, gutted by the prime minister’s office. The environmental watchdog he proposed was de-fanged by the Treasury (it has subsequently been lent some dentures by parliament). Other failures are all his own work. In response to lobbying from sheep farmers, Gove has allowed ravens, a highly intelligent and long-lived species just beginning to recover from centuries of persecution, to be killed once more in order to protect lambs. There are 23 million sheep in this country and 7,400 pairs of ravens. Why must all other species give way to the white plague?

Responding to complaints that most of our national parks are wildlife deserts, Gove set up a commission to review them. But governments choose their conclusions in advance, through the appointments they make. A more dismal, backwardlooking and uninspiring panel would be hard to flnd.

Not one of its members, as far as I can tell, has expressed a desire for significant change in our national parks, and most of them, if their past statements are anything to go by, are determined to keep them in their sheepwrecked and grouse-trashed state.

Now the lobbyists demand a New Zealand settlement for farming after Brexit: deregulated, upscaled, hostile to both wildlife and the human eye. If they get their way no landscape, however treasured, will be safe from broiler sheds and mega dairy units, no river protected from runoff and pollution, no songbird saved from local extinction.

The merger between Bayer and Monsanto brings together the manufacturer of the world’s most lethal pesticides with the manufacturer of the world’s most lethal herbicides. Already the concentrated power of these behemoths is a hazard to democracy; together they threaten both political and ecological disaster. Labour’s environment team has scarcely a word to say about any of it. Similarly, the big conservation groups have gone missing in inaction.

We forget even our own histories. We fail to recall, for example, that the 1945 Dower report envisaged wilder national parks than we now possess, and that the conservation white paper the government issued in 1947 called for the kind of large-scale protection that is considered edgy and innovative today. Remembering is a radical act.

That caterpillar, by the way, was a six-spot burnet: the larva of a stunning iridescent black and pink moth that once populated my neighbourhood.

I will not allow myself to forget again: I will work to recover the knowledge I have lost. For I now see that without the power of memory, we cannot hope to defend the world we love.

As Israelis, we call on the world to intervene on behalf of the Palestinians – Ilana Hammerman and David Hare * The Biggest Prison on Earth. The History of the Occupied Territories – Ilan Pappe.

We’re patriotic citizens but are horrified by the escalating tensions in our country: we fear for those who live here.

Israeli courts are in the process of legitimising the destruction of entire villages, and the Knesset is passing new laws that steadily decrease the ability of the courts to have a say at all.

The state of Israel is facing a catastrophic situation, which could, alarmingly soon, lead to extensive bloodshed. It is time for the international community to act decisively. Substantive external pressure, political, economic and cultural offers the only chance of emerging from this impossible situation before it is too late. Not a sweeping BDS-style boycott of the country, but diverse, carefully crafted, acts of pressure.

We represent a group of intellectuals and cultural figures central to Israeli society, several of whom are world renowned in their fields. We are patriotic Israeli citizens who love our country and who contribute tirelessly to Israeli science and culture, and to that of the world at large. We fully intend to stay here and continue to contribute, but we are horrified by the situation and fear deeply for our lives and those of our offspring, and for the lives of the 13 million Jews and Arabs who live here and who have no other homeland.

The decision to direct our plea to the outside world is not taken lightly, and we do so with a heavy heart. The pressure we believe is needed must come from governments and parliaments, of course, but also from civil society, individuals and establishments.

Ever since 1967, not a single Israeli government has put a stop to the expansion of settlements in the occupied West Bank. Moreover, in recent years, the official and openly stated ideological policy of the elected Israeli government has it that this land, from the Mediterranean to the Jordan river, belongs in its entirety to the Jewish people, wherever they may be.

In the spirit of this ideology, the processes involving oppression, expulsion and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians living in the West Bank are broadening and deepening. This includes Jerusalem, too, which was annexed by Israel in 1967, and the borderlines of which extend almost from Bethlehem in the south to Ramallah in the north. Israeli courts are in the process of legitimising the destruction of entire villages, and the Knesset is passing new laws that steadily decrease the ability of the courts to have a say at all. Others legitimise the additional expropriation of private Palestinian land in favour of the settlements built on them. These acts of one-sided expropriation violate those parts of international law that protect civilians of occupied territories, and some are even in violation of Israeli law.

For years the international community has been talking about a solution based on separate Israeli and Palestinian states coexisting in peace and security. But current Israeli policy renders this impossible. During the 51 years of military rule on the West Bank, Israel has taken over large quantities of land, and has placed around 600,000 Israeli citizens there in hundreds of settlements. It supplies them with roads, water and electricity, has built and financed their health, education and cultural institutions, and has given them the same civil and political rights enjoyed by citizens residing within its sovereign territory.

In contrast, Israel is squeezing the living space of Palestinian residents, who enjoy no civil or political rights. With the aid of laws, special regulations and military orders it shuts them out of the areas it has allotted to its citizens and for its military training activities. It delineates and then expropriates their private and public land on the basis of rules it sets down for the sole beneflt of its own citizens. It confines their villages by surrounding them with fences and barriers, destroys houses and refuses to allow them to expand; it imposes collective punishments, detains thousands of men, women and minors, tries them in a military court system and imprisons them in its sovereign territory.

Since all these actions are being carried out in violation of international law, the resulting situation is no longer just an internal Israeli issue. The institutions of the international community have taken many decisions intended to curb these actions, but none has ever been accompanied by enforcement mechanisms.

And so a destructive, violent and explosive reality is becoming the norm in these areas. We, who are located in the midst of this reality, believe the international community must help, since that community alone is responsible for enforcing compliance, with its treaties and with the decisions of its institutions, and since in the current circumstances only it can do so.

Never have these issues been as clear cut and as urgent as they are today: if peace is not established in this part of the world very soon, an area that has become a timebomb of national and religious tensions, there will be no future and no life for us or the Palestinians.

Ilana Hammerman is an Israeli writer and translator.

David Harel is Vice-president of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities

*

See also:

The Biggest Prison on Earth. The History of the Occupied Territories

by Ilan Pappe

The ‘Shacham Plan’, ‘The Organization of Military Rule in the Occupied Territories’.

“We will change the world, starting from the very beginning.” Building Babies Brains. Criança Feliz, Brazil’s audacious plan to fight poverty – Jenny Anderson * Advancing Early Childhood Development: from Science to Scale – The Lancet * A groundbreaking study offers undeniable proof that the fight against inequality starts with moms – Jenny Anderson.

“How can we most dramatically improve the quality of life for our citizens, their health, their education? The answer to that question lies in starting at the beginning, at pregnancy, and in the first few years of a child’s life.” Osmar Terra

Decades of groundbreaking research shows that the love and sense of safety experienced by a baby directly impacts how the child’s brain is wired. Adversity, especially persistent, stress-triggering adversity like neglect and abuse, hampers that development, and can result in poorer health, educational attainment, and early death.

“Children who experience profound neglect early in life, if you don’t reverse that by the age of two, the chance they will end up with poor development outcomes is high. The strongest buffer to protect against that? A parent, or caring adult.” Charles Nelson

The best investment a policymaker can make is in the earliest years of childhood, because that’s when intervention has the highest payoffs. Strong biological, psychosocial, and economic arguments exist for intervening as early as possible, starting from and even before conception, to promote, protect, and support children’s development.

Studies have found that children whose mothers received coaching made significant developmental gains, and not just in the short term. Twenty-two years later, the kids from one group who had received those home visits as young children not only had higher scores on tests of reading, math, and general knowledge, they had stayed in school longer. They were less likely to exhibit violent behavior, less likely to experience depression, and had better social skills. They also earned 25% more on average than a control group of kids whose mothers had not received the coaching.

Osmar Terra is a tall man with a deep voice and an easy laugh, one that disguises the scale of his ambition to transform Brazilian society. A federal representative for nearly two decades, he is the driving force behind the world’s biggest experiment to prove that teaching poor parents how to love and nurture their infants will dramatically influence what kind of adults they become, and give Brazil its best shot at changing its current trajectory of violence, inequality, and poverty.

Terra, aged 68, first became obsessed with the question of how humans develop nearly 30 years ago. As a cardiologist in the 1990s, he would read endless research papers about the neuroscience of early childhood. When he entered politics, becoming mayor of Santa Rosa in Rio Grande do Sul in 1992, he continued to grapple with the question, even studying for a master’s degree in neuroscience. The science, he believed, should lead to smart policy. As a doctor and a manager, a mayor and a state health secretary, he was always trying to figure out how to to tackle poverty head-on. “In every single activity I always ask myself, ‘What is the public policy that can be more transformative?’” he says. “How can we most dramatically improve the quality of life for our citizens, their health, their education?”

The answer to that question, he came to realize, lay in starting at the beginning, at pregnancy, and in the first few years of a Child’s life.

Decades of groundbreaking research shows that the love and sense of safety experienced by a baby directly impacts how the child’s brain is wired. Adversity, especially persistent, stress-triggering adversity like neglect and abuse, hampers that development, and can result in poorer health, educational attainment, and early death. While science underpins his mission, Terra’s palpable passion for the topic and his skill at politicking eventually led him to create Criança Feliz, a highly ambitious parent coaching program he helped launch in 2017 to try and reach four million pregnant women and children by 2020.

Under Criança Feliz, an army of trained social workers, a sort of national baby corps, are dispatched to the poorest corners of Brazil. Traveling by boat, sometimes battling crocodiles and floods, by foot, by car, by truck and by bus, these social workers go to people’s homes to show them how to play, sing, and show affection to their infants and young children. They explain to parents why this matters:

Emotional safety underpins cognitive growth. Intelligence is not fixed, but formed through experience.

Parent coaching, and specifically, home visiting, is not new. The most famous study, which took place in Jamaica in the 1970s, showed that well trained home visitors supporting poor mothers with weekly visits for two years led to big improvements in children’s cognition, behavior, and future earnings. One group of infants in that program who received coaching in their earliest years earned 25% more than a control group more than 20 years later.

But Brazil’s ambition is audacious. No city or country has ever attempted to reach so many people in such a short amount of time. (The largest program doing this now is probably in Peru, reaching about 100,000 families; Criança Feliz is already reaching 300,000.) “They are raising the bar for what is possible nationally,” says Jan Sanderson, the former deputy minister of children from Manitoba, Canada, who is an expert in home visiting and recently traveled to observe the program.

Just how Brazil, a massive country with endemic poverty and grating inequality, came to embrace parent coaching as the next frontier in combating poverty is a story of Terra’s political will, the strategic savvy of a few foundations, the pivotal role of a Harvard program, and the compassion of a growing group of unlikely allies, from communists to far-right wing politicians. Talking to lawmakers in Brazil can feel like wandering around a neuroscience convention: One senator from the south can’t stop talking about working memory, while a mayor from the northern town of Boa Vista in Roirama state is fixated on synapse connection.

At least 68 senators and congresspeople, judges, and mayors have converted to the cause, becoming evangelical in their focus on early childhood development.

“I believe that this is the solution, not only for Brazil, but for any country in the world in terms of security, public security, education, and health care,” says Iosé Medeiros, a senator from the state of Mato Grosso who heads the parliamentary committee on early childhood development. “It’s a cheap solution.”

Terra’s claims are more dramatic. “We will change the world, starting from the very beginning.”

Those words are hardly surprising coming from the man whom Ely Harasawa, Criança Feliz’s director, calls the program’s “godfather.” But the devil, of course, is in the details, and in Terra and his allies’ ability to steer a course through some rather treacherous political terrain.

Criança Feliz in action

On a hot day in May, Adriana Miranda, a 22-year-old accounting student, visits Gabriela Carolina Herrera Campero, also 22, who is 36 weeks pregnant with her third child. Campero arrived in Brazil less than a year ago from Venezuela, fleeing with her husband and two children from that country’s financial collapse and ensuing chaos. She lives in Boa Vista, a city in the north of Brazil where 10% of the population are estimated to be refugees.

The two women greet each other warmly and start chatting, in spite of the fact that Miranda is speaking in Portuguese and Campero in Spanish. They sit together on plastic chairs on a concrete patio as Miranda goes through a checklist of questions about the pregnancy. Has Campero been to her prenatal visits? (Yes.) How is she feeling? (Hot.) Is she drinking enough water? (Yes.) And walking? (When it’s not too hot.) Is she depressed or anxious? (No, but worried, yes.) Does she feel supported by her husband? (Yes.) How is she sleeping and what kinds of foods is she eating? (She’s not sleeping well because she always has to pee, and she is eating a lot of fruit.)

Miranda moves on to talking with Campero about attachment, how to create a strong bond with a baby in utero, and also once the baby is born. Does she know that at five months, the baby can hear her and that her voice will provide comfort to the baby when it is born?

“It’s important the baby feel the love we are transmitting. When he is in distress, he will know your voice and it will calm him,” says Miranda.

It’s a topic they have discussed before. Campero is eager to show what she has learned about the baby. (A part of the program requires that visitors check for knowledge.) “It has five senses, and if I talk, he will know my voice,” she says. “The baby will develop more.” They discuss the importance of cuddling a baby and being patient.

Having a baby in the best of circumstances can be challenging. As an impoverished refugee, in a new country, it can be utterly overwhelming.

I ask Campero, in Spanish, whether the program has been helpful. After all, she already has two kids. Doesn’t she know what to expect? She starts to cry. “They have helped me emotionally,” she says. “She has taught me so many things I didn’t know.” For example, she didn’t know to read to a baby, or that her baby could hear her in utero. Her son used to hit her belly; he now sings songs to the baby because she explained to him what she learned from Miranda. “I feel supported,” she tells me.

Many people, rich and poor alike, have no idea what infants are capable of. Psychologists and neuroscientists believe they are creative geniuses, able to process information in far more sophisticated ways than we ever knew. But for that genius to show itself, the baby needs to feel safe and loved and to have attention.

Medeiros explains how he viewed parenting before he went to the Harvard program.

”I raised my kids as if I were taking care of a plant,” he recalls. “You give them food, you take care of them.” He says he did the best he could, but “I did not have all this information. If I had encouraged them, stimulated them more, I would have been able to contribute much more to their development.”

He is hardly the exception. A 2012 nationally representative survey in Brazil asked mothers, 5200 of whom were college educated, what things were most important for the development of their children up to three years of age. Only 19% mentioned playing and walking, 18% said receiving attention from adults, and 12% picked receiving affection. “So playing, talking to the child, attachment, it’s not important for more than 80% of the people who are interviewed,” says Harasawa, the director of Criança Feliz.

Criança Feliz is part of Brazil’s welfare program for its poorest citizens, called Bolsa Familia. Started 15 years ago, the welfare program is rooted in a cash transfer system that makes payments contingent on kids getting vaccines and staying in school, and pregnant mothers getting prenatal care. Vaccination rates in Brazil exceed 95% and primary school enrollment is near universal. Originally derided, and still criticized by some in Brazil as a handout program for the poor, Bolsa Familia is nevertheless being replicated worldwide.

But a powerful coterie of Brazil’s political leaders believe it’s not enough. Cash transfers alleviate the conditions of poverty, but do not change its trajectory.

That’s where Criança Feliz comes in. The program is adapted from UNICEF and the World Health Organization’s Care for Child Development parent coaching program. Trained social workers visit pregnant women every month and new parents once a week for the hrst three years of a child’s life. Sessions last about an hour. The goal is to not to play with the baby or train the parent, but to help parents have a more loving relationship with their children. The program costs $20 per child per month. The ministry of social development allocated $100 million in 2017 and $200 million in 2018.

Cesar Victoria, an epidemiology professor at the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil, will conduct a three year randomized control trial comparing kids in the program to kids who are not, on measures of cognition, attachment, and motor development. Caregivers will be evaluated to see what they have learned about stimulation and play.

Criança Feliz neither pities poverty nor romanticizes it. It recognizes that low income people often lack information about how to raise their children and offers that information up, allowing parents to do what they will with it. “It’s one thing to say ‘read to your baby twice a day,”’ says Sanderson. “It’s another thing to say, ‘when your baby hears your voice, there are little sparks firing in his brain that are helping him get ready to learn.’”

Of course, it’s a delicate balance between respecting the right of a family to raise their children the way they see fit and offering information and evidence that could help the child and the family. “You’re in their home, you can’t interfere,” says Teresa Surrita, mayor of Boa Vista. “But you are there to change their mindset.”

Liticia Lopes da Silva 23, a home visitor from Arujé, outside Sao Paulo, says that the initial Visits with families can be hard. “They don’t understand the importance of stimulation and they are resistant to the idea of playing with children,” she says. “They are raised a different way, their parents did not have this interaction with them.” The issue is not just that some mothers don’t play with their babies; some barely look at them. Others treat the visitors as nannies, leaving them to play with the child, thus thwarting the very purpose of the visit, the interaction between parent and child.

But after a few weeks of watching a social worker sit on the floor, playing with the child, and talking with her about the baby’s development, the mothers sometimes join in. “It’s amazing to see the families evolve,” says one home visitor in Arujé. “Three to four months after, you see the difference in how the mother plays with the child. In a different way, the whole family gets involved. Fathers often get involved and many families start to ask the visitors to come more often, although the visitors cannot oblige.

When a home visitor named Sissi Elisabeth Gimenes visits a family in Aruié, she brings a color wheel painted onto a piece of recycled cardboard, along with painted clothespins. She asks Agatha, age three, to put a brown clip on the brown color.

Agatha doesn’t know her colors and gets very shy. Sissi encourages Agatha while chatting with her mother, Alda Ferreira, about how play beneflts brain development. She quietly models how to use encouragement and praise, praising Agatha for finding white, ”the color of clouds”, as the girl slowly gets more confident and gets off her mother’s lap to play.

The activity is intentional. The clips hone Agatha’s fine motor skills as well as her cognitive ones; the interaction with her mother helps create the synaptic connections that allow her brain to grow and pave the way to more effective learning later on. Alda tells us her daughter knows many things that her older daughter did not at the same age.

Agatha

The process changes the social workers as well. One social worker, who has a three year old herself, says that as parents, we think we know everything. “But I knew nothing.” In Aruja, where the home visitors are all psychology students at the local university, working with the program as part-time interns, many admitted to being shocked at seeing the reality of what they’d been taught in the classroom. Poverty looks different off the page. “We are changing because we are out of the bubble,” said one. “Theory is very shallow.”

As we leave Campero’s house, I ask Miranda what she thought of the visit. She too starts to cry. “Gabriella recognizes the program is making a difference in her life,” she says, embarrassed and surprised at her own emotions. Campero had told Miranda a few weeks earlier that she was worried because the baby was not moving. Miranda suggested that Campero try singing to the child in her womb; the baby started to move.

The man who made it happen

In 2003, as secretary of health in Rio Grande do Sul, Terra created Programa Primeira Infancia Melhor (the Better Early Childhood Development Program, or PIM), a home visiting program based on Educa tu Hijo, a very successful case study from Cuba. Results have been mixed, but Terra saw the impact it had on families and communities. He set his sights on expanding the program nationally.

One of the most persuasive arguments for the program, he knew, was the science. But he had to build votes for that science. In 2011, he started lobbying everyone he could to try and get financial backing from congress to fund a week-long course that he helped create at Harvard University’s Center for the Developing Child. He thought if lawmakers, who would be attracted to the prestige of a course at Harvard, could learn from the neuroscientists and physicians there, they might also become advocates for the policy.

“Anybody in the corridor he sees, it’s a hug, it’s a tap on the chest, and then it’s early childhood development,” says Mary Young, director of the Center for Child Development at the China Development Research Foundation and an advisor to Criança Feliz. “He’s got the will and the skill.”

One convert, Michel Temer, who was vice president from 2011 and became president in 2016 when his boss was impeached, tapped Terra to be minister of social development. Soon after, Criança Feliz was born. But trying to get Terra to talk about legislation can be a challenge. What he wants to talk about are neurons, synapses, and working memory. Did I know that one million new neural connections are formed every second in the first few years of life?

And that those neural connections are key to forming memories?

“The number of connections depends on the stimuli of the environment,” he says. And the environment of poverty is relentlessly unkind to the stimuli available to children.

Attachment, he explains, is key, not just psychologically, but neurobiologically. “If a child feels emotionally safe and secure and attached they explore the world in a better way. The safer they feel, the safer their base, the faster they learn,” he says.

The first 1,000 days

Over the past 20 years, scientists have focused on the importance of the first 1,000 days of life. Brains build themselves, starting with basic connections and moving to more complex ones. Like a house, the better the foundation of basic connections, the more complex are the ones that can be built on top. In an infant’s earliest days, it’s not flashcards that create their brains, but relationships, via an interactive process that scientists call “serve and return.” When an infant or young child babbles, looks at an adult, or cries, and the adult responds with an affectionate gaze, words, or hugs, neural connections are created in the child’s brain that allow them to later develop critical tools like self-control and communication.

If kids do not experience stimulation and nurturing care, or if they face repeated neglect or abuse, the neural networks do not organize well. And that, says Charles Nelson, a pediatrics professor at Harvard Medical School, can affect the immune system, the cardiovascular system, the metabolic system, and even alter the physical structure of the brain. “Children who experience profound neglect early in life, if you don’t reverse that by the age of two, the chance they will end up with poor development outcomes is high,” he says.

The strongest buffer to protect against that? A parent, or caring adult.

The case for early childhood as policy was elevated by Nobel Prize winning economist James Heckman. As founder of the Center for the Economics of Human Development at the University of Chicago, he demonstrated the economic case for why the best investment a policymaker can make is in the earliest years of childhood, because that’s when intervention has the highest payoffs.

“The highest rate of return in early childhood development comes from investing as early as possible, from birth through age five, in disadvantaged families,” Heckman said in 2012. His work showed that every dollar invested in a child over those years delivers a 13% return on investment every year. “Starting at age three or four is too little too late, as it fails to recognize that skills beget skills in a complementary and dynamic way,” he said.

More than 506 Brazilian legislators, judges, mayors, state politicians and and prosecutors have attended the Harvard course that Terra helped set up. There, Jack Shonkoff, a pediatrician and professor, explains what infants need to thrive, what toxic stress does to a child and how to build resilience. The attendees are put in groups, maybe a state senator from one state with council members from municipalities in the same state, to spend the week on a project; in the next two-and-a-half months, they finish it with the help of a technical facilitator.

”It’s a little facilitation and a little manipulation,” says Eduardo Queiroz, outgoing head of the Fundaeéo Maria Cecilia Souto Vidigal, a foundation which has played an integral role in supporting and shepherding Criança Feliz. “We create a community.”

It costs $8,800 to attend the program. Some pay their own way. Congress pays for lawmakers to go, and the Fundagéo Maria Cecilia Souto Vidigal funds between 10 and 12 scholarships a year. The fellowship does not require the participants to do anything with their knowledge. But many have. Surrita, who is in her fifth term as mayor of Boa Vista, focused her early governing efforts on working with teens, tackling drugs and gangs as a way to help them. After her week at Harvard, she changed her approach, deciding to make Boa Vista the “early childhood development capital of Brazil.” Investing in young children, she argues, will mean not so many problems with teens:

”After taking this course Harvard on the ECD I realized how important it would be for us to work with the kids from pregnancy up to 6 years old that to develop them mentally and cognitively and that way I realized that it would be possible for us to improve the performance of the teenagers lives by working on them when they’re kids.”

Obstacles and opportunities

Criança Feliz faces two significant threats: the prospect of being shut down, and the challenges created by its own ambition.

Although the Legal Framework for Early Childhood Development, passed in 2016, underpins Criança Feliz, it currently exists as a decree of the president. Of the last three presidents, one is in jail, one was impeached and the current one, Temer, faces criminal charges. With approval ratings of around 3%, Temer has decided not to run again, and the program’s supporters are worried that whoever wins the election will dismantle what the previous government has done (a common practice in Brazil). “We are concerned every day because the program is ongoing and we don’t know if the [next] president will support it,” says Ilnara Trajano, the state coordinator from Roirama state.

Mederios and Terra say the solution to avoiding political death is to create a law that will automatically fund Criança Feliz at the state level, rather than relying on presidential support. Terra, who exudes confidence and optimism, is sure such a law can be passed before the October date set for presidential elections. Others, including Harasawa, are not so sanguine. “We are in a race against time,” she says. She is working around the clock to build support one municipality at a time. She worries that not everyone thinks the government should play a role in parenting. “We are not trying to replace the family,” she says. “We are trying to support it.”

Beyond its political future, the program itself faces a host of issues. In many places, there aren’t enough skilled workers to act as home visitors. There’s also the fraught logistics of getting around. In Careiro da Varzea, in Amazonas state, home visitors often travel five hours, by foot, to reach pregnant women and young children; they are tired when they arrive. In Arujé, seven home visitors share one car to visit 200 families, or 30 visits each, per week. Internet services can be terrible, and wild, dogs often chase the social workers.

The visitors are trained in a curriculum that tells them which materials to use, what to teach and when, and the research that underpins the guidance they give to mothers. But they need more training, and the curriculum does not always prepare them for the poverty and distress they see. Some mothers want to give up their babies; they did not want them in the first place.

Many suffer from depression. The social workers are trained to support nurturing care, but they are not mental health experts. Inevitably, turnover is high.

The evidence for the value of home visiting at scale is at once highly compelling and frustratingly imprecise. Consider the case of Colombia: From 2009 to 2011, researchers there studied 1,419 children between the ages of 12 to 24 months to see whether coaching their mothers on interactions with their babies could help the children’s development. After 18 months, the researchers found a host of benefits. The children whose mothers had received coaching got smarter. Their language skills improved, and their home environments were judged to be more stimulating. But when researchers went back two years later, they found the children, now about five years old, had not maintained those benetits. “Two years after the intervention ended, we found no effects on children’s cognition, language, school readiness, executive functioning, or behavioral development,” the study reported. (Criança Feliz run for a longer period of time, however.)

Governments face notoriously hard choices about where to invest their money. “Early childhood development is a really valuable investment,” says Dave Evans, an economist at the World Bank. “But so is primary education and the quality of primary education, and if you spend a dollar in one place, it’s a dollar you aren’t spending in another place.”

Samuel, Keith, and Giliane

One of the Virtues of a home visiting program, compared to say, building childcare centers, is that social workers can see what is happening inside a home: signs of domestic violence, other children in need, a mother’s depression, a father’s unemployment. They can help with kids like Samuel, who was born with cerebral palsy.

At two-and-a-half years old, Samuel loves his ball, and shrieks with delight when he is presented with a truck. He can’t stop smiling at his mother, Giliane de Almedida Trindade Dorea. She and social worker Keith Mayara Ribeiro da Silva, gather around him to talk and play.

“Where is the dog? Yes! That’s the dog. Very good Samuel!” says da Silva.

The two encourage Samuel to try and stand up. He struggles. “Get up, use your legs,” says Dorea. “You are lazy. Be strong!”

Samuel ignores the women’s requests. He wants to play. They shift gears. “Where is the ball?” da Silva asks. He grabs it and plays. “He’s very smart!” she says. She and Dorea are trying to get Samuel to use one hand, which cannot open, to play with the ball and then the truck. They work together for 15 minutes to find a way to get him to use his weak hand, but he just wants to play with his dominant hand.

Dorea adores her son and plays with him patiently. But it has been hard, she says. When da Silva started to visit, Samuel could not sit up, he was quite shy and often cried. Da Silva has helped the family access the services and care that Samuel needs: a physiotherapist, an occupational therapist, an acupuncturist, and a doctor to check his hearing. These are services the government will provide, but finding them and organizing the appointments is time consuming and can be overwhelming.

Dorea says Samuel has changed since Keith has been coming. “His interaction with people, he’s totally different. He was so shy.” In fact, she says the whole family has benefited. Her older daughter also knows how to play with Samuel and loves to help. She appreciates the support. Raising a child with a disability is hard work. “The visitor is a like a friend who comes every week not just for fun but also to share my concerns,” she says. Her biggest complaint about the program? “It’s too short.”

Will it survive?

There is a maxim in investing that you have to survive short-run volatility to get to the long run, you can’t make money if you don’t have any. Criança Feliz faces the same problem. Child development takes time. It is not a jobs program or a construction project, which voters can see.

The benefits can take years to show up, and politicians have never been known for their long-term thinking.

Alberto Beltrame, the current minister of social development, is a believer. Start early and you shape character, transforming the child into a better young adult and, eventually, creating an improved workforce, he says. You reduce violence and crime. He agrees that Bolsa Familia alone is not enough. It does not promote autonomy, or break the cycle of poverty. What is needed is a two-pronged approach: In the short term, promote training, microcredit, and entrepreneurialism to create jobs. For the medium and long term, Criança Feliz.

“We have a huge array of benefits that we are going to gain with this one program, and the cost is very, very low compared to others,” he says.

In every home we visited, mothers said they loved the support, be it information, toys, or more often, company to share their challenges and triumphs. Priscila Soares da Silva has three children, including six month old Allyce, and another on the way. With Allyce, she says, she has changed her approach to parenting, setting time aside to play every day now. “You raise children your way,” she explains cooing over Allyce. “When you see there are other visions, you see the way you did it was not so right.” She is also refreshingly honest about something all parents know: We do it better when someone is watching. “There are things we know, but we are lazy. When she comes, we are better.”

When I quietly ask her teenage daughter, who is lingering in the corner, what she thinks of the visits, she answers immediately: “She’s so much more patient,” she says of her mother. Her own takeaway: Parenting is hard, and she does not want to do it anytime soon. Priscila smiles at this, agreeing she started too soon, and noting the benefits of the program have extended beyond Allyce and the baby she will soon have. “The program got the family closer.”

Evans, from the World Bank, is watching the program closely. “I see Criança Feliz as a big, bold, gamble about which I am optimistic,” he says. “But I think the measurement and the evaluation is crucial to see if it is a model that other countries want to echo.”

If it survives the near term political turbulence, Beltrame says it can go way beyond the poor to beneiit everyone. “We are trying to make the Brazilian people realize, independent from their level of income, that stimulating children from pregnancy through the first 1,000 days of life is important,” he says. Better young people equal healthier and better adults, who are more emotionally connected and can be better citizens.

With Crianea Feliz, Beltrame says, we have the “possibility of having a new destiny and future for each one of these children.”

The Lancet

Advancing Early Childhood Development: from Science to Scale

An Executive Summary for The Lancet’s Series

Overview of the Series

The 2016 Lancet Early Childhood Development Series highlights early childhood development at a time when it has been universally endorsed in the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.” This Series considers new scientific evidence for interventions, building on the findings and recommendations of previous Lancet Series on child development (2007, 2011), and proposes pathways for implementation of early childhood development at scale.

The Series emphasises “nurturing care”, especially of children below three years of age, and multi-sectoral interventions starting with health, which can have wide reach to families and young children through health and nutrition.

Key messages from the Series

The burden and cost of inactian is high.

A staggering 43 percent of children under five years of age, an estimated 250 million, living in low and middle income countries are at risk of suboptimal development due to poverty and stunting. The burden is currently underestimated because risks to health and wellbeing go beyond these two factors. A poor start in life can lead to poor health, nutrition, and inadequate learning, resulting in low adult earnings as well as social tensions. Negative consequences impact not only present but also future generations. Because of this poor start, affected individuals are estimated to suffer a loss of about a quarter of average adult income per year while countries may forfeit up to twice their current GDP expenditures on health and education.

– Young children need nurturing care from the start.

Development begins at conception. Scientific evidence indicates that early childhood is not only a period of special sensitivity to risk factors, but also a critical time when the benefits of early interventions are amplified and the negative effects of risk can be reduced. The most formative experiences of young children come from nurturing care received from parents, other family members, caregivers, and community based services. Nurturing care is characterised by a stable environment that promotes children’s health and nutrition, protects children from threats, and gives them opportunies for early learning, through affectionate interactions and relationships. Benefits of such care are life long, and include improved health, wellbeing, and ability to learn and earn. Families need support to provide nurturing care for young children, including material and financial resources, national policies such as paid parental leave and provision of population based services in a range of sectors, includlng health, nutrition, education, and child and social protection.

We must deliver multi-sector interventions, with health as a starting point for reaching the youngst children.

Interventions, including support for families to provide nurturing care and solving difficulties when they occur, target multiple risks to development, and can be integrated into existing maternal and child health services. Services should be two pronged, considering the needs of the child as well as the primary caregiver, and include both (are for child development as well as maternal and family health and wellbeing. This affordable approach is an important entry point for multi-sectoral collaborations that support families and reach very young children. Essential among these are nutrition, to support growth and health, child protection, for violence prevention and family support. social protection, for family financial stability and capacity to access services; and education, for quality early learning opportunities.

– We must strengthen government leadership, to scale up what works.

It is possible to scale up projects to nationwide programmes that are effective and sustainable, as indicated by four country case studies in diverse world regions. However, government leadership and political prioritisation are prerequisites. Governments may choose different pathways for achievmg early childhood development goals and targets, from introducing tansformative government wide initiatives to progressively enhancing existing services. Services and interventions to support early childhood development are essential to ensuring that everyone reaches their potential over their life course and into the next generation, the vision that is core to the Sustainable Development Goals.

Risks to early childhood development remain high

Updated definitions of stunting and extreme poverty and improved source data were used to re-estimate the number of children under 5 years in low and middle income countries who are at risk of not reaching their developmental potential. Between 2004 and 2010, this number declined from 279 million (51 percent of children in 2004) to 249 million (43 percent of chiidren in 2010), with the highest prevalence in sub Saharan Africa (70 percent in 2004 and 66 percent in 2010).” An illustrative analysis from 15 countries with available Multiple indicator Cluster Surveys in 2010 or 2011 demonstrates the implications of additional risks to chiidren’s development beyond poverty and stunting, induding low maternal schooling (completed primary school) and child physical abuse by either parent or by caregivers (severe punishment of children aged 2 to 5 years, such as hitting a child as hard as possible, or with a belt or stick). Estimates of children at risk increase dramatically when low maternal schooling and this kind of physmal abuse are added, from 62.7 percent (exposed to risks of stunting or extreme poverty), to 754 percent, with large disparities among sub national social and economic groups.

Global commitments to early childhood development are growing

Since 2000, the rapid increase in publications on the topic of early childhood development surpassed the general trend for health sciences publications. However, only a few of the publications reported on interventions.

The numbers of countries with national multi sectoral early childhood development policies increased from seven in 2000 to 68 in 2014, of which 45 percent were low and middle income countries. There has also been substantial investment in early childhood development during that time period. For example, since 2000 the Inter American Development Bank has approved more than 150 projects for over US$17 billion. From 2000 to 2013, the World Bank Invested $3.3 billion in 273 projects, primarily through health, nutrition, and population programmes. Still, investment falls short of the need and the impact of available interventions.

Early childhood development from a life course perspective

Childhood development is a maturational process resulting in an ordered progression of perceptual, motor, cognitive, language, socio emotional, and selfregulation skills. Thus, the acquisition of skills through the life cycle builds on the foundational capacities established in early childhood.

Multiple factors influence the acquisition of competences and skills, including health, nutrition. security and safety, responsive caregiving, and early learning (Figure 1), Each are necessary for nurtunng care. Nurturing care reduces the detrimental effects of disadvantage on brain snucture and function which, in turn, improves children’s health, growth, and development.

Interventions, including nurturing care, benefit early childhood development

Interventions identified by reviews between 2011 and 2015, and country policies shown to have significant benefits for childhood development, are summarised and organised into packages in Figure 2. Many of the health and nutrition interventions have additional beneflts for improved child survival and growth, as well as reduced morbidnes and disabilities.

Family support and strengthening package

Three elements of family strengthening increase the likelihood that families are able to provide nurturing care for their children: access to quality services (eg, antenatal care, immunisation, nutrition), skills building (29, nurturing care and reduction of harsh discipline); and support (eg, social protection, safety networks, and family support policies)

Caring for the caregiver package

This two generation package emphasises care and protection of parents’ physical and mental health and wellbeing, while enhancing caregivers’ capacnty to provide nurturing care to their child.

Early learning and protection package

This set of interventions integrates the support of young children with parental support and the facilitation of teachers’ and caregivers’ ability to create a nurturing environment in day care and early childhood centres. The emphasis is on quality and family support through parental empowerment, guidance on nutrition and care, and child protection.

Parent support pvogrammes

Parent support programmes that promote nurturing care, particularly those employing several behaviour change techniques, can substantially augment the positive effects on early childhood development outcomes of basic health and nutrition, education, and protection interventions. In contrast, maltreatment during childhood is associated with reduced volume in brain regions involved in learning and memory. Children who receive inadequate care, especially in the first 24 months of life, and often from mothers who themselves were neglected or abused, are more sensitive to the effects of stress and display more behavioural problems than do children who receive nurtunng care.

Multi sectoral interventions improve childhood development

The effectiveness of interventions could be improved by taking into consideration the major insights gained over the past decade about how human development is affected across generations by complex and multi faceted experiences. Sectoral interventions combined with elements of nurturing care and protection, can boost the effect on child outcomes. This approach encourages interventions directed at the family as a unit rather than the child alone.

Learning from early childhood development programmes at scale

An analysis of country programmes illustrates the importance of political prioritisation, legislation, and policy, and the use of existing systems and financing to scale up. These programs focus on addressing poverty, inequality, and social exclusion, starting early. Scaledup early childhood development programmes most often have a vision of comprehensive and integrated services for children and families; have been founded by statute or other formally communicated government strategy; have been funded by government; and have been led by a government department or agency working collaboratively with other departments and civil society organisations.

Framework for action

To promote health and wellbeing across the life course at scale requires interventions provided through several sectors, and a supportive environment of policies, cross sectoral coordination, and financing (Figure 3).

At the heart of this intervention framework is the nurturing care of young children, provided by parents, families, and other caregivers Particularly successful are parent support programmes to promote nurturing care, among which the most widely implemented in low and middle income country settings are the WHOIUNICEF Care for Chiid Development and Reach Up and Learn, a parenting programme tested in trials in Jamaica over the past 20 years and now expanding to other regions.

Affordability of early childhood development interventions

To assess the affordability of including interventions to promote early childhood development in existing health and nutrition services, this paper estimates the additional costs of incorporating two interventions aimed at supporting nurturing care of children into the services identified in the Global Investment Framework for Women’s and Children’s Health.“ The First intervention is based on Care for Child Development and the second on support for maternal depression, because it bolsters nurturing care. The estimated average additional investment needed is half a dollar per capita in the year 2030, ranging from US$01 in low income countries to US$07 in upper middle income countries This represents an additional 10 percent over published estimates for a comprehensive set of women’s and children’s health and nutrition services.

The cost of inaction

At an individual level, the loss of average adult income per year for the 43 percent of children at risk of not reaching their developmental potential is likely to be 26 percent, exerting a strong downward economic pull and trapping families in poverty. At a societal level, the cost of inaction for not improving stunting to a prevalence of 15 percent or less and not addressing developmental delays through preschools and home visits is several times more than what some countries currently expend on health or education respectively. The cost of inaction for not improving childhood development through preschool and home visits rises sharply in settings with fewer preschool services, as well as in settings with a higher prevalence of children at risk of poor development.

Pathway to scale

Action 1: Expand political will and funding through advocacy for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Under the broader SDG umbrella, investing in early childhood development has become not only an aim in itself, but a requisite for achieving many other SDGs (eg, SDGs 1, 5, 10, 16, and 17). For example, SDG Target 4.2 under the learning goal, calling for universal access to quality eady childhood development, care, and pre-primary education, provides unprecedented opportunity to scale up early childhood development services,

Action 2: Create a policy environment that supports nurturing care of young children

Laws and policies can improve childhood development by increasing access to and quality of health and other services, as well as money and time for parents to provide nurturing care for their young children. Five transformative policies for which there is robust global data on levels, duration, coutry coverage, and progress achieved in the past two decades include: 1) paid parental leave for new mothers and fathers; 2) breastfeeding breaks at work, 3) paid leave for parents to care for sick children; 4) income support through a minimum wage; and 5) tuition free pre-primary education. Governments, with the technical and funding assistance of development partners, must also ramp up efforts to analyse their situation, identify gaps and priority areas for intervention, and develop sustainable and costed action plans to promote early childhood development at scale.

Action 3: Build capacity to promote early child development through multi sectoral coordination

Many efforts to promote early childhood development are dependent on non governmental services, which are frequently limited in scope and inequitable in coverage. Interventions are highly dependent on skilled human resources and, unless built on existing service systems such as health, education, social and child protection, face severe supply side constraints. This is illustrated by lessons learned from the scale up between 2000 and 2009 of more than 120 cash transfer programmes in low and middle income countries

We identified multiple examples in health and nutrition services into which interventions to promote nurturing care and improve childhood developmental outcomes have been feasibly and effectively incorporated. Opportunities also exist in other sectors. which is important for the continuity of support from early childhood into schooling. For example, in the education sector, childhood development can be supported through a variety of early learning opportunities, including the prvisiin of child day care services, preschool, and parent education. Interventions can also be provided through child and social protection services, including cash transfer programmes. Thus, the integration of early childhood development interventions into existing service delivery platforms, starting with health, is an effective and efficient way to reach large numbers of families and children.

Action 4: Ensure accountability for early child development services, increase research, and foster global and regional leadership and action

Ensuring the inclusion of a core set of early childhood development indicators, which go beyond access and process and hold stakeholders accountable for childhood development in the global metrics for the SDGs, is of paramount importance. Research that links detailed longitudinal data on policies and programmes with outcomes, allowing causal modelling, is essential.

Conclusion

Strong biological, psychosocial, and economic arguments exist for intervening as early as possible, starting from and even before conception, to promote, protect, and support children’s development. An emphasis on the first years of life is articulated within a life course perspective. High quality care in families, child day care services, and preschools during the earliest years needs to be followed by high quallty schooling and services into adolescence in order to capitalise on interdependence between investments made in the successive stages of the life cycle.

Multi sectoral interventions, with health services as an entry point, are particularly well-placed to reach children early with services that support families to deliver nurturing care and promote, protect, and support early childhood development, Interventions to promote nurturing care can feasibly build on existing health and nutrition services at only a limited additional cost. Coordination with education is needed to promote learning, and with social and child protection, to reach the most vulnerable population:

Evidence consolidated in this series points to effective interventuons and delivery approaches at a scale that was not envisaged before, During the next fifteen years. world leaders have a unique opportunity to invest in the early years for long-term individual and societal gains and achievement of the SDGs. All sectors must play their part in supporting families to prowde nurturing care for children.

However, the time has come for the health sector to expand its vision of health beyond prevention and treatment of disease to include the promotion of nurturing care for young children as a critical factor In the realisation of the human potential of all people.

A groundbreaking study offers undeniable proof that the fight against inequality starts with moms

Jenny Anderson

Children born into poverty start at a big disadvantage. To thrive, they need food, shelter, and health care. But a growing body of evidence shows there are other ways to help close the vast gap in development between poor kids and their wealthier peers: singing, talking, and playing with them.

If this sounds obvious or inconsequential, it’s not. Dealing with the stress of poverty makes it hard for many parents to establish critical bonds with their babies, bonds that lay the foundations for learning, emotional regulation, and relationships. Poor parents are “focused on survival and illness and food and health care,” says Sally Grantham-McGregor, an emeritus professor of international child health at University College London and University of the West Indies. “There’s no time to play with children, it seems frivolous.”

But playing with babies turns out to be anything but frivolous. Grantham-McGregor and her colleagues have spent more than 40 years pioneering research which showed just how much supporting mothers in the earliest days of a child’s life can directly benefit that child. In the 1970s, Grantham-McGregor and Christine Powell, from the University of the West Indies, began a research project aimed at helping young children from poor backgrounds and their moms in Kingston, Jamaica. They designed programs that sent doctors and nurses to visit mothers every week in their homes for two years, bringing toys and books that would help parents become better teachers to their babies and to increase stimulation and play.

The resulting studies found that children whose mothers received coaching made significant developmental gains, and not just in the short term. Twenty-two years later, the kids from one group who had received those home visits as young children not only had higher scores on tests of reading, math, and general knowledge, they had stayed in school longer. They were less likely to exhibit violent behavior, less likely to experience depression, and had better social skills. They also earned 25% more on average than a control group of kids whose mothers had not received the coaching.

The highly influential Jamaica studies have influenced the way many countries think about investing in early childhood development. Brazil, Guatemala, Zimbabwe, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Bangladesh, and India are all trying parent coaching programs, many based on the Jamaica model. It’s easy to see why some countries are embracing such an approach. After all, it’s in every country’s best interest to ensure that its most disadvantaged citizens get the support they need to live productive, fullilling lives.

“If we want to attack poverty, the place to start is very early in life,” says Paul Gertler, an economist who studied the long-term effects of the Jamaica program. Research shows that poverty affects a young child’s development on multiple levels, from their cognitive and educational performance to their physical health and social and emotional development. Compared to the cost of unemployment benefits or other social safety net programs, “getting it right to start with is cheaper.”

To tackle the lasting effects that inequality can have on a child’s life, we have to start early. The work of Grantham-McGregor and her team in Jamaica offers some of the best evidence we have about what governments can do to support families in an effort to close the intractable gap between rich and poor children everywhere.

The Jamaica experiments

Much as caregivers in poor countries typically want their children to succeed, it’s not necessarily obvious that a key way to do this is to talk and sing to babies, respond to them when they cry, and find other ways to engage them with the world. Consider a 2012 nationally representative survey in Brazil, which asked mothers, 52% of whom were college educated, what things were most important for the development of their children up to three years of age: only 19% mentioned playing and walking, 18% said receiving attention from adults, and 12% picked receiving affection.

The Jamaica studies showed how much these things matter. Through randomized controlled trials supporting poor, often uneducated mothers, the programs dramatically improved children’s development. (The effect sizes have been described as “astounding.”) It expanded the scope of helping poor children from health and nutrition to stimulation and responsiveness.

While the earliest studies used health professionals as home visitors and relatively expensive toys and materials, Grantham-McGregor and Powell quickly changed the program’s model to save money, using community health workers instead of doctors and nurses and homemade toys. Over the course of seven studies, they also experimented with different levels of frequency for the home visits and worked with babies experiencing different kinds of deprivation, including severely malnourished infants and children who had been born at a low birth weight.

They found that the effects of early intervention were both long-lasting and complex. One study tracked 129 stunted children, that is, babies smaller than well nourished children of the same age and gender, who show persistent developmental delays as they grow up. Researchers followed a group of children and mothers that received weekly home visits for two years, as well as other groups of children, including a control group. The study then tracked the children’s development for up to 22 years.

The beneflts of the intervention seemed to vary as the children grew up. After two years, the infants in the visiting group showed significant developmental gains. They actually caught up to kids who were not stunted, an enormous victory.

Over time, however, some of the effects seem to fade or fluctuate. At 7 to 8 years of age, the mean IQ from the intervention group was no higher than that of the control group. By age 11 to 12, the children who had been in the home visiting group had signincantly higher IQs than the control group, but showed no significant improvements in behavior or school achievement.

Then, when researchers tested the intervention group again at age 22, they found a battery of benefits, from higher income to better social skills and less violent tendencies.

Many researchers might have given up when the effects of the early intervention programs seemed to fade. But the benefits resurfaced with a bang, proving that programs that coach mothers can bring about lasting, significant, long-term results. In 2016, Grantham-McGregor and Smith published research in the Journal of Applied Research on Children exploring 12 published trials in five different countries, all of which were based on the original findings of the Jamaica program.

“Jamaica was so important because it shows us the potential of what can be done, the importance of stimulation, and that impacts can be long lasting,” says Amanda Devercelli, global lead for early childhood development at the World Bank. The challenge lay in taking Jamaica’s small program with big effects and making it accessible to the millions of poor families who need it.

The brain science behind nurturing care

In the years since the Jamaica studies, the science underscoring the critical opportunities and risks of early childhood has exploded. Neuroscience revealed the incredible plasticity of the early brain, showing that the foundations for learning opportunities and risks of early childhood has exploded.

Neuroscience shows that the foundations for learning as well as children’s social, emotional, and moral development start as early as pregnancy, and spike in a baby’s earliest years. Like a house, children’s brains need strong foundations. Their brains cannot fully develop without responsive caregiving; people who help them form deep and trusting attachments; and stimulation. Stress during a child’s early years, whether from poverty, malnutrition, neglect, or abuse, can negatively affect their nervous system in ways that can create lifelong problems with learning, behavior, and physical and mental health.

A foundational tenet of nurturing care is the importance of serve and return, which refers to adults’ responses to a child’s attempts at communication, from crying and babbling to gazing and smiling. According to the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child and the Center for the Developing Child at Harvard, “The interactive influences of genes and experience literally shape the architecture of the developing brain, and the active ingredient is the ‘serve and return’ nature of children’s engagement in relationships with their parents and other caregivers in their family or community.”

The neurobiology of early childhood presents a challenge to policymakers. Until fairly recently, policy makers focused their dollars and attention for children on education, usually starting around age five.

But five years old is too late. Research shows that developmental deficits between richer and poorer children can show up in kids as young as seven months. By the time children are in school, the gaps between advantaged children and disadvantaged ones are already enormous. School tends to exacerbate those rifts.

“It’s fairy well established that how well a child has developed cognitively, language development, socially, emotionally, when they enter school will determine to a large extent how well they do in school, and that will have repercussions in adulthood including the intergenerational cycle of poverty,” says Grantham-McGregor. This means the bigger a developmental deficit is early on, the harder it is for poor kids to catch up.

Grantham-McGregor is excited about the developments in neuroscience. But she’s emphatic that it’s already well established that mothers from disadvantaged homes benefit from this kind of help. “The brain research is exciting and it’s helpful because people pay attention,” she said. “It’s good for advocacy, but we were doing these programs before this data came out. And we’re still doing them.”

Expanding the lessons of Jamaica

Economists have joined the neuroscientists, arguing with data, that investing in early childhood is the most cost-effective way to affect long-term outcomes like education and employment.

James Heckman runs the Center for the Economics of Human Development at the University of Chicago, and won the Nobel prize in 2000 for his work in microeconometrics. He has since focused on applying his work to early childhood, including analyzing of the Jamaica research. He estimates that the best investment any policymaker can make is in the earliest years of childhood, because these interventions have the highest payoffs.

“The highest rate of return in early childhood development comes from investing as early as possible, from birth through age five, in disadvantaged families,” Heckman said in 2012. “Starting at age three or four is too little too late, as it fails to recognize that skills beget skills in a complementary and dynamic way.”

The key, it seems, is ensuring that families have the support and tools they need to bond with young children and provide them with engaging environments. “We know from developmental science that families are the biggest builders of skills and abilities in their children in the earliest years,” Heckman tells Quartz. “Jamaica shows that simple but effective parental education can produce better child outcomes.”

Jamaica inspired programs now exist all over the world, as do hundreds of other parenting programs. The biggest issue they face? How to get the strongest outcomes in the most affordable way. In a sense, Jamaica set the bar uncomfortably high for this, due to its small size and the fact that the home visitors were highly trained, and the coaching quite intensive.

“Our challenge now is to take what we learned from Jamaica and design programs that are affordable and feasible in many diverse low-income settings,” says Devercelli from the World Bank.

One study in Colombia looked at whether a more affordable, and scalable, version of the Jamaica program could produce the same effects. It used a large sample, studying 1,420 children aged 12-24 months and their primary caregivers in 96 municipalities, and tied the implementation of the home visits to an existing social protection program, conditional cash transfers. The results showed positive and significant effects on cognition and language, though smaller than the effects in Jamaica, as would be expected.

Meanwhile, in 2012, the Peruvian government implemented Cuna Mas, a home-visiting program based on many of the materials and foundations used in Jamaica and perhaps the best example of Jamaica operating at scale. The program has reached over 90,000 Peruvian families. Early research shows positive and significant effects on children’s cognition and language, as well as parenting practices, although the effects are smaller than in either Jamaica or Colombia.

“As you scale, the impacts are smaller,” says Marta Rubio Codina, a senior economist at the Inter-American Development Bank. Reducing costs to make the programs more affordable for governments means that quality can suffer. The goal, she says, is to figure out how to minimize those compromises. “My bet is that we have to invest in the workforce: training the home visitors and training their mentors.”

To help other countries develop and measure their own programs, an international collaboration of academics headed by the Jamaican group at the University of the West Indies developed Reach Up and Learn, a web-package of materials and curriculum and training manuals which are being used in places from Colombia, India, Peru, and Brazil. One Challenge: making sure the curriculum reflects the country’s culture, including local games, rhymes, songs, and stories.

“Adapting to culture is a lot of work,” says Grantham-McGregor. Pretend games taught to parents may need to be adapted, going to the field to work, or spinning wool, depending on common occupations. Local artists also need to redraw pictures to reflect a given culture’s typical housing, landscape, and style of dress, among other things.

Countries are experimenting with other variations on the program. Bangladesh has built a strong body of evidence that Jamaica-type programs are effective. They are experimenting with small groups of mothers visiting health workers in clinics, rather than having workers come to their homes.

As the long-term benefits of such programs materialize, early childhood advocates are urging governments to find more ways to support mothers and families. In 2016, the Lancet published a series of articles on early childhood highlighting the unique opportunity the early years offer to policymakers. Writing for the Lancet, Pia Britto, an adviser to Unicef, wrote that we now know the critical importance of “nurturing care,” which she defines as a set of interrelated concepts around caregiving, ranging from hygiene to stimulation (talking, singing, playing), responsiveness (early bonding, secure attachment, trust, and sensitive communication), and safety (routines and protection from harm).

“The single most powerful context for nurturing care is the immediate home and care settings of young children often provided by mothers, but also by fathers and other family members, as well as by childcare services,” Britto writes. Thanks to the Jamaica experiments, the world has increasingly accepted this fundamental truth: The best way to help poor kids is to start early, and give mothers and families the support they need.

BORN TRUMP, Inside America’s First Family – Emily Jane Fox.

“We need a very acute financial mind to get us out of this mire. America is the largest corporation on the planet. You wouldn’t hire a novice to run a similarly sized company in the private markets.” Ivanka Trump 😂😂

Jared flew to Los Angeles to ask Barrack for his advice, and Barrack obliged, helping Donald restructure his debt and holding some of it himself. 1994

There was very little in place for what would happen if Donald actually won. None of them had expected to be there on inauguration day. When their father decided to run, and frankly up until they saw him start winning states on November 8 from the campaign headquarters on the twenty-fourth floor of Trump Tower, a few months earlier, they’d assumed that he would lose and that they would get back to their normal lives and businesses. A concession speech had been written in advance.

Apart from the fact that it meant that he’d won something, Donald didn’t much want to be there. As the reality of the election dawned on him in the weeks leading up to his move, he frequently asked advisers how often he could leave Washington to return to his triplex on Fifth Avenue.

The Trump kids made damn sure that they were at the front and center of everything.

Inauguration

Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner hustled themselves and their children up to the second floor of the residence in the White House, to the southeastern corner of her father’s new sixteen room home. She was still in the white Oscar de la Renta pantsuit she’d worn all day, through the rain washing over her father’s swearing-in ceremony and the parade down Pennsylvania Avenue marking his inauguration, and chilled to her bones. She would soon change into a glittery champagne gown for the inaugural balls. Her hair would be teased and swept and sprayed into an ornate knot at the nape of her neck. She would prick teardrop diamonds into her ears and slather highlighter onto her cheekbones and underneath her eyebrow and onto her bare clavicle, exposed by the deep V of her dress.

All of that would have to wait. The Trump-Kushners sped into the Lincoln Bedroom, where they had stayed through her dad’s first weekend as the president of the United States of America. The traditional parade flirted dangerously close to sundown, which, on January 20, 2017, fell at 4:59 pm. eastern standard time. As practicing Modern Orthodox Jews, Ivanka and Jared needed to light Shabbat candles as day turned into night in order to observe their own tradition, which Jared had been doing his whole life and Ivanka had joined him in when she converted, years earlier, before they married. She had arranged with the White House usher to have candlesticks waiting in their borrowed room. Usually she would have brought her own, as she typically did for a weekend away, but this weekend, in just about every way, was not typical for the Trumps. She figured the White House must have suitable candelabras lying around. She was correct.

The immediate family of five formed a semicircle around the White House’s candlesticks, and Ivanka struck a match to light the wicks. There they were, in a room Abraham Lincoln had once used as an office; which the Trumans had rebuilt in 1945, Jackie Kennedy had spiffed up in 1961, Hillary Clinton had freshened in the 1990s, and Laura Bush had again refurbished in 2004. The eight-by-six-foot rosewood Lincoln bed, with its six-foot-tall carved headboard-the bed that Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Calvin Coolidge had slept in, was at their backs; a holograph copy of the Gettysburg Address, one of only five signed, dated, and titled by Lincoln, sat on the desk nearby. Ivanka covered her eyes and recited the blessing over the candles: “Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav vitzivanu l’hadlik ner shel a .” Blessed are You, God, Ruler of the universe, who sanctified us with the commandment of lighting Shabbat candles.

It was the first time Shabbat had been welcomed this way in the history of the residence.

SOME FIVE hours earlier, as light sheets of rain fell over Washington, DC, Donald J. Trump had pressed his right hand to two Bibles on the West Lawn of the Capitol and became the forty-fifth person to recite the oath of office, as prescribed by Article II, Section 1, of the Constitution. One of the Bibles he chose was used by Lincoln when he was sworn in at his first inauguration in 1861, as the nation hung on the precipice of the Civil War. The other had been given to him by his mother in 1955, two days before his ninth birthday, just after he graduated from the Sunday Church Primary School at the First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica, Queens. Its cover is embossed with his name and, on the inside, signed by church officials.

After taking the oath, Trump turned his back on the crowd and swung his arms open toward his family, who had encircled him as he made his vow to the American people. He first looked eyes with Ivanka, who had positioned herself directly at the center of the dais, with her brother Eric slightly behind her to her left and her half sister Tiffany next to him. Don Jr. was just to lvanka’s back on the other side, her half brother Barron and stepmother turned First Lady Melania beside him. Ivanka cocked her head at her dad, the president, her lips and cheeks pulled so tightly by her smile that her facial muscles contorted themselves into an aptly bronzed rectangle. She dove forward to kiss him, but his instinct kicked in quick. He had never been on this sort of world stage before, but he had spent enough years with his family life chronicled in the papers to know well enough to greet his wife before his favorite daughter. So before she reached him, he swooped to his left and pecked his wife, and then worked his way through his children, Barron, Donny, Ivanka, Eric, Tiffany, to let them congratulate him, tell him how great he’d done, how much they loved him.

The family soon gathered in a motorcade for the inaugural parade. Ivanka and Jared quickly realized that their infant car seat did not fit in their armored car, an inconvenient, startlingly normal fact that held up the entire motorcade and parade on this historic day. “What’s the holdup?” everyone kept asking.

At last, they figured it out. Everyone got moving. At a quarter after four in the afternoon, following the custom President Jimmy Carter began in 1977, when he got out of his limousine and walked for more than a mile en route to the White House, Donald, Melania, and Barron stepped out of “the Beast,” the armored car the president travels in, in front of the Trump International Hotel. Elsewhere along the route, crowds were sparse and protesters had gathered. But in front of the hotel bearing Trump’s name, revelers were packed onto risers, a dozen deep. There were cheers and signs and a sea of red “Make America Great Again” hats. Ivanka and Don Jr. and Eric and their spouses and most of their children followed in cars of their own, and, once he got out of his car, walked alongside their dad, greeting the supporters who’d waited outside for hours in the forty-degree Washington winter.

The family stayed outside for about three minutes before getting back in their cars, which moved along slowly for another half hour, until they arrived at a viewing stand near the White House. Ivanka and Jared whisked inside around sunset.

None of them had expected to be there that day. When their father decided to run, and frankly up until they saw him start winning states on November 8 from the campaign headquarters on the twenty-fourth floor of Trump Tower, a few months earlier, they’d assumed that he would lose and that they would get back to their normal lives and businesses. They would have spent that gray, winter day with the broadcast of the inauguration on in the background as they headed off for weekends at Mara-Lago, or at their homes in Bedminster, or Westchester, or the Catskills. It would have been an otherwise normal winter weekend for an otherwise perfectly happy moneyed family, trying to get back into the swing of their old normal.

Apart from the fact that it meant that he’d won something, Donald didn’t much want to be there. As the reality of the election dawned on him in the weeks leading up to his move, he frequently asked advisers how often he could leave Washington to return to his triplex on Fifth Avenue, and in the weeks after the move he spent most weekends flying on Air Force One down to his private club in Palm Beach.

But it was not a normal weekend, and their old normal was swiftly replaced by an extraordinary new existence -one that they not only didn’t predict but also never could have imagined. Nevertheless, that is where they found themselves on January 20. And once they were there, the Trump kids made damn sure that they were at the front and center of everything.

THERE WERE thousands of things to do once the Trump family woke up bleary-eyed and bewildered on the morning of November 9, barely a few hours after Donald gave his victory speech, scraped together with the kids’ help just before they all rushed over to the ballroom at the Midtown Manhattan Hilton Hotel. A concession speech had been written in advance. Ivanka had plans to get her fashion line back on track come Wednesday morning. She would lay low for a while and let the rhetoric and rancor die down a bit, so that what her team expected to be strong holiday season sales would speak for themselves, starting a whole new narrative. The manuscript for her book for working women would also require her attention; she had just turned it in, and it was set to go to print around the inauguration.

Jared would begin a reputational recovery tour. Friends had told him that would be a feat, now that people viewed him as an asshole; no one would be lining up to do business with him, at least not right after the election loss. Don Jr. and Eric were starting talks with investors and partners about a new, lower tier chain of hotels in heartland cities that would appeal to the Trump supporters they’d met on the trail, turning their MAGA zeal into Trump Organization patronage. Tiffany would be able to focus on her law school applications. Barron could go to school on Manhattan’s Upper West Side without the Secret Service agents who were clogging up drop-off and pickup traffic, enraging the uptown parents and drivers and nannies (to say nothing of back-to-school night, when Melania and her protection locked down the school’s only elevator so she could get to Barron’s classroom; this left the rest of the parents to hoof it up the stairs, rocketing the school rageometer to full-scale fury).

There was very little in place for what would happen if Donald actually won.

Now an inaugural weekend had to be put together, which required months of planning and millions of dollars and at least a basic understanding of its history and traditions. Trump tapped Tom Barrack, his friend of three decades, to chair the committee. In a statement on November 15, Donald announced that Barrack-a private equity billionaire who had served as deputy undersecretary of the Department of Interior under Reagan and been one of Donald’s cheeriest surrogates and advisers throughout the campaign (and the man who urged Ivanka and Jared to get Donald to hire Paul Manafort)-would be “responsible for the planning and coordination of all official events and activities surrounding the inauguration.”

Barrack and Trump had first crossed paths in 1987, when Donald summoned him to Trump Tower. At the time, Barrack was working for a rich Texas family that owned a department store chain Donald wanted to buy a piece of, which he did, thanks to Barrack’s help. The family also owned the Plaza Hotel, which Donald could see from his office window in Trump Tower and itched to add to his growing Manhattan empire. The problem was that Barrack’s bosses wanted $410 million for the property. It was a bum deal for Donald, but it was a New York institution, the kind of storied figure in New York Donald himself wanted to become. It was a crown jewel. And Donald, a Queens outsider and something of a punch line, wanted it for his crown. So he agreed to pay the price-in cash, no less. And after he’d thrown his kids’ birthday parties in the hotel, and later met with Ivana there to hash out the early details of their separation, and later married Marla Maples there, the place dragged him near financial ruin.

In 1994 a guy Barrack knew from Chase Manhattan Bank called to tell him Donald was in trouble. He had a $100 million loan with Chase, and a mountain of other debts, and at the very least he needed to unload the Plaza. Barrack persuaded the bank to give Donald a little breathing room to find financing before they foreclosed. In the time that bought, they found a Saudi Arabian prince and a hotel group out of Singapore to take it off his hands. More than a decade later Donald asked Barrack, who, in his own Trumpian outer-borough desire to make it in Manhattan, had bought a forty-onestory office tower on Fifth Avenue for what was then the highest price for a commercial building in US history and was struggling to make the loan payments. Jared flew to Los Angeles to ask Barrack for his advice, and Barrack obliged, helping him restructure his debt and holding some of it himself.

The inauguration gig was a high-profile thank you for Barrack, and a relief for Donald, who’d been saved by Barrack enough times before that he trusted him to do it again. Barrack brought on a team of other billionaires and Trump loyalists, including Sheldon Adelson, Woody Johnson, Anthony Scaramucci, Steve Wynn, Elliott Broidy, and Laurie Perlmutter, to help him out.

He asked Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former Vogue editor and friend of Melania’s known around the Condé Nast office as General Winston for the military efficiency with which she planned the annual Met Gala, to serve as an editor-at-Iarge for the inauguration. She took on all the heavy lifting-securing venues and event planners, deciding on table settings, arranging broadcast rights and social media filters, figuring out how to move heavy equipment around Washington, and perhaps the heaviest lift of all, getting talent to perform at events throughout the weekend. Inaugurations past had been filled with megawatt star power. At Barack Obama’s, Beyoncé, Aretha Franklin, Yo-Yo Ma, and Kelly Clarkson performed; at George W. Bush’s, Ricky Martin, 98 Degrees, and Jessica Simpson; for Bill Clinton’s, Fleetwood Mac got back together again for a rare performance. Virtually no celebrities wanted to perform at a Trump inauguration. That would have been an issue for any incoming president, but it was particularly sticky for Trump, whose fragile ego cracked at the slightest of insults from nobodies.

Wolkoff asked Mark Burnett, the creator of The Apprentice, to comb through his Rolodex to convince stars to take part in the weekend, if not in support of Donald, out of patriotic duty. Still, they couldn’t get a big name. In fact, everyone whose name was so much as floated as a possible inaugural performer immediately disassociated themselves. When a rumor circulated that Elton John would give a concert on the Mall, his spokesperson quickly threw water on it. Garth Brooks initially appeared open to the idea, since “it’s always about serving,” but soon afterward declined an offer to appear. The same happened with Andrea Bocelli, Kiss, and Jennifer Holliday. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, however, did accept the invitation to sing at the swearing-in ceremony. They booked America’s Got Talent runner-up Jackie Evancho for the national anthem. The Rockettes agreed to perform at the inaugural balls, though some dancers refused to partake, complaining to their union about being asked to perform for what one Rockette described as a man who “stands for everything we’re against.”

At the same time, millions of people, including Katy Perry, Cher, and Madonna, were preparing to walk in women’s marches around the country. In fact, reports stated that DC issued far more permits for city buses for the march on Saturday than for Donald’s swearing in on Friday. And in the weeks leading up to the inauguration, nearly seventy lawmakers vowed to boycott the events to protest the messages Donald had run on and the rhetoric he used during the campaign and after the election.

With protests looming and virtually no one famous set to attend, the inaugural committee’s message shifted. As Barrack spun it, with “the biggest celebrity in the world” as president, other stars were superfluous. “So what we’ve done,” Barrack said, “instead of trying to surround him with what people consider A-listers, is we are going to surround him with the soft sensuality of the place. It’s a much more poetic cadence than having a circuslike celebration that’s a coronation. That’s the way this president-elect wanted it.”

Where’s the crowd?

It was, in a word, a disaster, and they needed all hands on deck. The Trump kids jumped into the planning, though not necessarily to aid in the process or to take on some of the burden. They each wanted to make sure that they individually would be involved in each public event, and took great pains to make sure not only that they would be present but that their seating arrangements were satisfactory. Their proximity to Donald on that day, and thus their presence in photographs that would be telegraphed all over the world that weekend and in history books for centuries, was paramount.

Melania, as the incoming First Lady, tried to organize a weekend that kept them all together. That meant all five kids, all eight grandchildren, would be welcome to stay the Thursday evening before the inauguration at the Blair House, just across the road from the White House, and spend the rest of the weekend in the residence once the Obamas moved out and the Trumps moved in. No one would sleep on couches or double up; Melania made sure that each sibling had his or her own room and determined who would sleep where, though Ivanka did put in a request to stay in the Lincoln Bedroom. Melania arranged enough time for breakfasts and lunches and dinners together as a family, to anchor everyone in the headiest of weekends. She had buffets to be set up throughout the weekend so that no one would go hungry.

Melania was less certain when it came to the parade, which would have the family making the same walk toward the White House on the twentieth of January that presidents have made for nearly half a century. There have been few American political climates so vitriolic and acerbically divided as the one that existed after Donald’s election, and she had deep concerns about getting out of the car and marching alongside her eleven-year-old in the open, even with the Secret Service and protection teams that would surround them.

Ivanka was set on the parade. “It’s happening,” she insisted. It was tradition. It was presidential. It was not something her father and the family were going to miss out on.

There was a sense among those who worked on the transition that the legacy aspect of the inauguration was critical for Ivanka. This was a chance for the Trumps to have their Kennedy moment, one that looked a lot like Camelot. Melania, in her Ralph Lauren powderblue suit with matching blue gloves, her hair teased into a bouffant, consciously channeled Jackie on inauguration day. (Initially, she had toyed with the idea of wearing the now infamous red, white, and blue Gucci ensemble that Kellyanne wore and got panned for, but a fashion editor and adviser to Melania nixed it, reminding her of the importance of wearing American designers that weekend.)

Ivanka looked to establish the Trumps as the new American royal family. She worked with a stylist and told friends that she wanted a princess moment, particularly for the inaugural balls, for which she chose a sparkly tulle confection.

“I told her it’s an inauguration, not a coronation,” one friend recalled. “The sentiment was that Americans wanted a royal family.”

(A blown-up photograph of her in that gown, dancing with Jared onstage, hangs outside her office in the West Wing, with a note scrawled across it in metallic Sharpie. “To the most beautiful couple in the world,” her father wrote across the image. “I am so proud of you. Love, Dad.”)

There was less meaning ascribed to the Oscar de la Renta white pantsuit Ivanka chose for the actual swearing-in ceremony. Of course, the choice raised eyebrows. White pantsuits were a Hillary Clinton thing, so much so that Hillary herself wore one on inauguration day. When advisers brought that up to Ivanka in advance of the day, she shrugged it off. “It definitely was not intentional, her choosing to wear that,” one adviser remembered. “She was like, ‘oh shit,’ not in a stupid way, but she didn’t mean to make it a thing. It really wasn’t.”

THAT IVANKA wanted to harken back to the Kennedys was no surprise. Certainly her mother, Ivana, who had longed for a place in the world of old-money American royalty, played a role in this, at least during her daughter’s childhood. For years, Ivana told people that Ivanka’s beloved Irish nanny, Bridget Carroll, had nannied for John Kennedy Jr. before moving in with the Trump family, though there is no proof of that, other than Ivana’s mentions. She took credit for choosing her daughter’s schools, first Chapin, the all-girls private school that Jacqueline Bouvier attended, and then Choate, the boarding school from which John Kennedy graduated. In Ivana’s recent book about her children, she noted that the Kennedy family would travel to Aspen for holidays at the same time the Trump family did, engaging in side-by-side slalom races against one another. “It was the Trumps vs. the Kennedys,” she wrote, “and Trump always won.”

At Choate, Ivanka told classmates, particularly when it came up in her political history classes, of her admiration for Jackie Kennedy as a leader. (One classmate remembers that she always took an interest in the Roosevelt family, too, and in Anna Roosevelt in particular. Franklin Roosevelt tapped Anna, his only daughter, who, like her father, had a somewhat sticky relationship with the First Lady, to work in his West Wing after she and her young children had lived with him in the White House during the early years of his presidency. She served as his personal assistant, accompanying her father to the Yalta Conference in World War II, while Eleanor Roosevelt stayed behind.)

Jared and his family had their own affinity for the Kennedys. Jared’s father Charlie keenly referred to himself as the “Jewish Kennedy,” seeing himself as both a king and kingmaker in the northern New Jersey religious community in which, thanks to healthy donations, many of the buildings bore his name. When it came time for Jared to apply to Harvard as a high school senior, Charlie nudged his senator, Frank Lautenberg, to ask his colleague Ted Kennedy to put in a good word with the dean of admissions in Cambridge. When Jared moved into a corner office overlooking St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where the family baptized Caroline Kennedy and eulogized Bobby Kennedy after his death, he hung just one photo on the wall next to his desk. It was a framed Garry Winogrand snap of Jack Kennedy delivering his speech at the 1960 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles. The shot catches JFK from behind, camera lights creating a halo around the side of his head and contours of his jaw. A television set propped up just behind the desk broadcasts his face again in black and white for the viewer to see.

“I love the juxtaposition of him looking that way and seeing him the other way,” Jared told New York Magazine of the photo in 2009. “I love the glow in his face. I look at it all the time.” He bought all the photos in the series, but kept the rest in a box. (Later, once he and Ivanka had married and moved into a Trump building on Park Avenue, Winogrand photographs lined the hallways of their apartment.) After Jared was sworn in as senior adviser to the president at the tail end of inauguration weekend, he and his brother Josh posed for a photo underneath the somber portrait of JFK hanging in the White House.

John F. Kennedy delivering his speech at the 1960 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles

When Ivanka and Jared got married, they decided to release one photo after the nuptials, in the style of John F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette, rather than selling them to a magazine. When they had children, all the names they chose evoked Kennedy family ties, Arabella Rose, Joseph, and Theodore. Jackie Kennedy unofficially referred to her and JFK’s stillborn daughter as Arabella, though the baby was never given a birth certificate, and when she was later moved to be buried alongside her father, her gravestone simply read “Daughter,” along with her birthday. Rose, of course, was the name of the Kennedy matriarch.

“I have always loved the name Arabella,” Ivanka said in an interview with The Today Show a month after her daughter was born. Childhood friends remember her always coming back to the name when they were growing up and brainstorming what they would name their future children someday. They were hardly surprised when she settled on it as her first child’s name decades later. “Jared’s grandmothers had names beginning with an A and an R. We wanted to pay subtle homage to those two strong and wonderful women while also adopting a name that was very unique. Plus, we thought that the initials, ARK, were cool!”

Joseph was the name of both JFK’s father and Jared’s grandfather, and Frederick, their son’s middle name, was Donald’s father’s name. Ivanka posted on her Tumblr when her son was born in 2013 that they chose to name him after their paternal grandfathers, “both master builders of their generation and inspiring patriarchs of their families.”

“Jared’s grandfather, Joseph, was a rock. His indomitable spirit, his sense of family, and his work ethic are the values we hope to hand down to our son. My grandfather, Frederick, was a builder not just of tens of thousands of homes throughout this city, but of a tightknit family that honors to this day the traditions he established. Both men set the standards that have been passed down through the generations and which we hope to impart upon Joseph and Arabella. They created a legacy for our family that inspires our careers as well as our love and respect for one another. We are honored to name our son after these two distinguished men. We feel so blessed with the newest member of the family!”

Theodore is not as exact a match, Ted Kennedy’s first name was short for Edward, but the similarity, after an Arabella Rose and a Joseph, is hard to ignore, especially among those who believe the couple viewed their own gilded, millennialized, social-media-propagated version of Camelot as the end game.

It goes without saying that the clearest and most recent cribbing of Kennedyesque behavior came after the election. Donald chose to tap his son-in-law to serve in his West Wing, and not long after, his daughter joined them in an official capacity as well. Ethics experts sounded the alarms immediately; this violated an anti-nepotism law that had come to be known as the Bobby Kennedy Law, because it took effect six years after JFK appointed his brother Bobby to be his attorney general in 1961. The law was upheld for fifty years, until the Trumps’ lawyers found a work-around. The way they read it, the White House is not an agency, and the president enjoys broad executive powers. In the Trump administration, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue would be just like the twenty-sixth floor of Trump Tower, with a little touch of Kennedy-era nostalgia lawmakers thought they’d banned five decades earlier.

They viewed their own gilded, millennialized, social-media propagated version of Camelot as the end game.

IN THE midst of all the inauguration jostling, Jared and Ivanka decided to move to Washington. Not only would they have to figure out how to divest themselves of portions of their businesses, set up trusts, and figure out who would take over their responsibilities within their family businesses and outside ventures; they’d also need to find somewhere to live and a school for their kids. Melania was having a hard enough time getting the schools to which presidents typically send their young children to even let Barron apply. Ivanka and Jared had two kids who needed to be in school, and they needed to find a Jewish day school. So Seryl Kushner, Jared’s mother, took on the task. Jared and Ivanka hired a broker and made a few day trips down to DC to look at houses. Jared’s father, Charles, was the one to negotiate the lease. Sometimes dad knows best.

AS PROTOCOL dictated, the whole family boarded a military plane that would take them from New York to Washington on Thursday afternoon. At Joint Base Andrews, Barron made his way down the stairs off the plane first, followed by Don Jr., his wife Vanessa, and their five children, and Eric and his wife Lara. Then came Ivanka, with her little baby boy in her arms, her emerald-green Oscar de la Renta dress and matching coat with its drapy collar blowing in the wind on the tarmac, her big black Jackie O. sunglasses resting on the bridge of her nose. Jared and Ivanka’s two older kids trailed behind her. Tiffany came next, followed by Melania and Donald.

The family soon hopped in a motorcade headed for Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, where Donald and Mike Pence would lay a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknowns. Before her father came out, Ivanka, Jared, and her daughter, Arabella, descended the stairs toward the memorial, in the open plaza overlooking Washington, DC. Ivanka positioned herself closest to the center of the staircase, where her father would later stand, all but ensuring that she would be in almost every frame wide enough to take in the scene. Eric and Tiffany were farther to her left, and Don Jr. and his wife and daughter got stuck behind them.

Then there was the Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration on the ninety-eight granite and marble stairs at the base of the Lincoln Memorial. The highlight, perhaps, was Lee Greenwood’s rendition of “Proud to Be an American,” to which the Trump family, who were off to the side of the stage on seats arranged for them, sang along. Donald and Melania sat in the front row, with the two seats next to them reserved for Ivanka and Jared, as they had requested. Her siblings filled in the rows behind them.

That evening they headed over to Union Station for a black-tie candlelight dinner with Donald’s cabinet nominees and Republican megadonors. The kids had tables reserved for their friends, where they ate grilled white and green asparagus, roasted branzino with lemon and thyme, and vanilla meringue cakes. They sipped wine out of gilded glasses specifically chosen with Camelot in mind, while listening to their father rehash “this beautiful map” that had emerged on the eve of the election. He thanked Ivanka, who sat next to Wendi Murdoch, wearing a white cap-sleeved Oscar de la Renta column gown with an oversize black bow tied in the back at her waist. He thanked his siblings and their spouses, and boasted that he had a family who actually got along. He then went on to acknowledge his children. “My sons, look at them, standing there,” he said, pointing their way. “I say ‘Why aren’t you campaigning today?’ Eric and Don and Tiffany, who was incredible. And Barron is home.” He then went on to praise Patriots owner Bob Kraft and tell the crowd that his quarterback Tom Brady, who, a decade earlier, Trump told reporters had dated Ivanka, had called to congratulate him.

Separately, he singled out Ivanka. “We have in the audience a special person who’s worked very hard, who married very well. It’s my daughter Ivanka. Where is she?” Then, spotting her in the crowd, he said, “I sort of stole her husband. He is so great. If you can’t produce peace in the Middle East, nobody can.”

After a night’s rest in Blair House, the positioning continued on Friday in the swearing-in ceremony, where again Ivanka moved toward the center of the frame when her father approached Chief Justice John Roberts to recite his oath of office. That evening, since it was Shabbat, the Secret Service had to work with the couple to develop a special security plan. Traditionally, those observing the Sabbath do not travel in cars from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. But that would have meant they would not be able to attend any of Friday’s balls or the events on the following day, which, for a couple who wanted to be part of everything, was not an option. Walking was out of the question; their detail told them it was not safe, given the vitriol and the protests. Plus, Ivanka had her princess gown and heels on, and the balls were not exactly a hop and a skip away from the White House. So they asked special permission from their rabbi to break the rules of Shabbat, since it was a matter of safety, and what they argued was a once-in-a-lifetime familial opportunity.

They made the most of it. Donald and Melania were meant to share their first dance on stage alone. Planners had no idea that the children would later join them on stage for a family-wide slow dance; Donald, who knew that he was not a skilled dancer and was aware of just how long the song was, asked his children to come out onstage to cut some of the lingering awkwardness. By the second ball that evening, once they’d seen just how uncomfortable he looked the first go around, they joined him out there even earlier in the song. Afterward Tiffany and her boyfriend went back to the Trump Hotel, where they met her mother, Marla, and a few friends from New York. The rest of the family spent the night at the White House.

The next morning, the family attended a service at the National Cathedral. They were all exhausted by that point, especially the grandchildren. They’d patiently sat through the wreath-laying and the concert and the parade in preceding days, but a long, early morning in church was asking too much. Ivanka handed her son Joseph toy cars to keep him occupied, which she quickly regretted. He shot one straight down the aisle, past all the pews, confusing the people gathered there to pray and pay tribute to the presidential rite of passage.

The extended family had settled into the White House by Saturday afternoon. Don Jr.’s son slurped cereal out of a bowl in the dining room wearing his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pajamas. Theodore, Ivanka’s youngest, crawled for the first time in the state dining room as they all had a buffet lunch that Melania made sure was set up for them after the church service. Don Jr. and his wife and kids took a spin in the bowling alley in the basement.

By Sunday afternoon there was one official event left, in the East Room of the White House. Donald swore in members of his senior staff, including Jared, who would serve as his senior adviser. Jared’s parents and brother Josh tried to keep Jared and Ivanka’s kids quiet while their dad recited his oath. Josh handed the kids a container of jellybeans, which they promptly spilled on the floor of the East Room. Josh quietly swept them up, hoping no one would notice.

By Sunday evening Don Jr. and Eric and their families and Tiffany had flown back to New York. So had Melania and Barron, who wouldn’t move down to Washington for another five months. When Melania got back to the Trump Tower triplex, it was empty. There was no Donald, no frantic campaign staff or inauguration committees. There was nothing more to plan, at least for the time being. She called one of her closest friends to come over to keep her company. She was now the First Lady of the United States. She was also completely, utterly alone.

Ivanka and Jared stayed behind in DC, arriving at the nearly century-old, 6,800-square-foot home they rented, with six bedrooms, seven baths, five wood-burning fireplaces, a two-car garage, a sunroom, a garden, and a terrace off their bedroom. This was their first night there, and they hadn’t yet picked out all of their furniture. So they ordered in pizza and ate dinner on the hardwood floor. The sun set on life as they knew it. A new normal dawned.

Chapter Two

Campaign/Transition

ON JUNE 16, 2015, Ivanka glided down the gilded escalators into the lobby of Trump Tower, her father’s crown jewel in Midtown Manhattan, where she and her brothers had grown up and now worked as executives in the Trump Organization. She slipped past the crowd gathered with the burnished mauve marble walls, adorned on that day with royal blue signs emblazoned with “TRUMP Make America Great Again.” Wearing a white sheath dress, her corn-yellow hair parted down the center and swept into a bun, revealing two dangly silver hoop earrings that swayed as she took her place behind the dais, she smiled at the hundred or so people awaiting an announcement and inhaled. Flanked by a half dozen American flags, she began: “Today, I have the honor of introducing a man who needs no introduction. This man,” she said, “is my father.” The crowd erupted, and her pink-painted lips parted in a toothy grin. Her nose crinkled, and after a particularly raucous shout from the floor above, she let out a little giggle. She went on to praise her father, for his career success, for his negotiating prowess, for his say-it-like-he-means-it candor, for his loyalty to friends. “I’ve enjoyed the good fortune of working alongside my father for ten years now, and I’ve seen these principles in action daily,” she said.

But before she worked for him, in a technical function, that is; the Trump kids have been employees serving his brand in some capacity since they arrived on earth, he told his children they had to work hard and strive for excellence in all that they did, she said: “I remember him telling me when I was a little girl, ‘Ivanka, if you’re going to be thinking anyway, you might as well be thinking big.”’ There was no better person to have in your corner when you were facing tough opponents or making tough decisions. “Ladies and gentlemen,” she said, dipping closer to the microphone, “it is my pleasure to introduce to you today a man who I have loved and respected my entire life, Donald J. Trump.”

She beamed at the crowd as Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” blasted from the speakers, bouncing off all that marble. For two minutes and forty-five seconds, a full two verses and two choruses of the song and into the bridge, she stood there, nodding and smiling and fidgeting onstage, before Donald Trump emerged from the escalator. Don Jr. and Jared and Tiffany kept staring at her from just off stage right, where they’d watched her introduction, appearing as uncomfortable about her languishing up there waiting as she was.

Finally Donald greeted her, gave his speech, and announced his candidacy, which was mostly received as a joke and a branding opportunity by the media and anyone who knew or watched the Donald on television or in the tabloids or around New York for decades.

It was not the first time Donald had flirted with a presidential run. Or the second or third time, either. He did this periodically, when it served his company or stroked his ego, or when he tapped into a message that resonated. And his children had responded in kind each time they were asked over the years about their father’s political ambitions. Don Jr. showed up to a town hall in the fall of 1999 on campus at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was an undergraduate at the time. His dad was toying with the idea of running as a candidate for the Reform Party, and he let Chris Matthews interview him live for Hardball in front of 1,200 students, including Don Jr., who was made to stand up in front of the crowd. “He’s much better looking than I am,” Donald told the audience. Ivanka was also repeatedly asked about her dad’s presidential aspirations over the years. In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar in 2011, she said that her father was “exactly what we need” in the leader of the free world. “He’s the best equipped to deal with the most important issues this nation has, which is ultimately that we’re suffering under a massive burden of debt,” she said.

“We need a very acute financial mind to get us out of this mire. America is the largest corporation on the planet. You wouldn’t hire a novice to run a similarly sized company in the private markets.” Despite their praise, he never made the leap.

This time, though, their father had actually gone through with it. Ivanka reveled in the moment. Don Jr. radiated excitement as he rode up in the elevator after his dad’s speech. His phone would not stop ringing. “My Special Forces friend just texted me,” he told former Trump Organization employee Sam Nunberg in the elevator going back up to his office. “He loved it.” A handful of the people he hunted with sent him similar laudatory messages. “They fucking loved it.”

FROM THERE, Don Jr. was dispatched onto the trail. He was perhaps the only real conservative out of the whole lot of them. He had a little bit of red state under the Patrick Batemanesque exterior, the slicked-back hair, the veneers, the big fat tie knots. He went on weeks-long hunting trips and spent time in the middle of the country and somewhat understood life outside of Trump Tower and golf courses and gilded everything. So operatives deployed him to make campaign stops. Ivanka often introduced her father, a tightly wound blond spoonful of sugar leading into his acerbic, rambling speeches. Eric would go on Fox News, as would his wife, Lara. They sat in the family sections at the debates, and participated in town halls, and had dinner at diners in the freezing cold New Hampshire winter. They had a sense that this moment was both fleeting and once-in-a-Iifetime, inviting childhood friends and close associates to come with them backstage at debates or other key rallies, knowing full well that this was probably the only time they would get anywhere near this close to the political process, and it would all be over in a flash.

OF COURSE it wasn’t. By the time Donald started actually winning primaries, the Trump kids, in part filling in for their stepmother, who loathed the trail and preferred to stay in New York with Barron, took on their roles in the campaign as near full-time jobs.

Donald just about clinched the nomination in early May, winning the Indiana primary. Ted Cruz, one of the last Republican men standing by that point, bowed out that evening. Donald rode those escalators once again down into that mauve marble lobby to give a victory speech. Melania stood to his left, Ivanka and Jared, Eric and Lara, Don Jr. and Vanessa to his right, all closed-mouth smiles and shine.

“I want to start by, as always, thanking my family.” Donald leaned into the microphone his campaign had set up on a makeshift stage in front of a cheering crowd in his red baseball hats. “My wife, my kids. They’re not kids anymore, but as far as I’m concerned, they’re kids. They’ll always be my kids,” he joked. “It’s a beautiful thing to watch and it’s a beautiful thing to behold and we’re going to make America great again.”

He singled out his son-in-law, praising him for the work he had done to get him to that point. “Honestly, Jared is a very successful real estate person, but I actually think he likes politics more than he likes real estate,” he told the audience, sending Ivanka into a laughing fit. “But he’s very good at politics.”

A few days later Ohio governor John Kasich dropped out of the race, making him the sixteenth opponent Donald had put a pin in. As the presumptive nominee, he would soon start receiving intelligence briefings on national security matters and immediately shift to a general election plan. Life beyond the primaries smacked the Trumps in the face. There was a level of planning and organization that the tiny Trump team of novices could not themselves begin to fathom, but they had enough sense and outside advice to start making incremental plans on specific, necessary next steps. That’s when Donald put another load on Jared’s shoulders. He asked him to come up with a blueprint for a transition team, though Jared himself would not be involved with transition activities should his father-in-law win in November. Jared, campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, and senior adviser Paul Manafort started pulling together ideas for who could join the team and what the priorities should be.

Donald set his mind on New Jersey governor Chris Christie as the guy he wanted to lead the transition. Sure, Christie had been critical of Donald when he ran his own bid for the presidency, but he was among the first former opponents to endorse him in February. The complicating factor was that Jared, assigned to lead the charge here, despised the guy. Christie had put Jared’s father behind bars a little more than a decade earlier, after all, and kept him there for twenty-eight days longer than the Kushner family expected. The simmering tension was no secret, and Donald was sensitive to it, particularly because he knew Ivanka would be sensitive to it as well. But it was Donald’s campaign, and at least in this instance, no one could talk him out of it.

By May 9 Donald had already made the offer to Christie. He asked the governor to come to his office on the twenty-sixth floor of Trump Tower, where Donald did most of his campaign work when he was in New York, amid a crush of sports memorabilia, Tom Brady’s Super Bowl helmet, Mike Tyson’s belt, Shaquille O’Neal’s size 22 black and white basketball sneaker. A photo of Donald’s father Fred shared the desk with stacks of paper, framed magazine covers bearing his likeness lined the walls, and the red leather armless chair he’d sat in as the host of The Apprentice was tucked into the room’s far end. Corey Lewandowski came, too, and they began to hammer out the parameters of how the transition would work and what notes they wanted to hit in a press release announcing his appointment.

Jared joined them, too, and he tried to pump the brakes. “Well, we don’t have to rush this,” he chimed in. “Let’s take our time with this.”

Lewandowski interrupted him. Actually, they did have to rush this. The White House had already asked for the name of a transition head, and it was sure to come up at the meeting scheduled in a few weeks. They needed to decide this and get it out there already. Donald agreed with him. What was the point in waiting, anyway? The choice was made. Let’s get on with it.

Unlike Charlie Kushner, whose temper flashed and burned a whole room down in an instant, Jared simmered. The angrier he got, the quieter he became. So when he opened his mouth to respond, he was at little more than a whisper. It was rare for him to talk about his father’s stint in prison so openly, but on this day Jared unleashed. What came out was an impassioned monologue that went on so long that his father-in-Iaw ultimately had to interrupt him. “It’s unfair,” Jared said. “He took advantage of my family members for his own ambition, and you don’t understand what he did to us.”

Christie, no shrinking violet, either, boiled in his seat. Before he could Open his mouth, though, Donald jumped to his defense. “The guy was just doing his job. If you were there, you would have done the same thing,” he told his son-in-law. “You really should be mad at your own family here. They are the ones who turned over all that information to Chris.” Jared’s real problem, he added, was that he hadn’t known Donald at the time of his father’s trial; Donald and Christie were such good friends that things would have turned out differently. Christie would have taken it easier on his friend’s family. “No, no, no,” Christie interrupted. “I like you a lot, but I assure you it would not have been any different.”

“No, no, no,” Donald retorted. “It would have been different.” Donald then suggested that Jared, Charlie, Donald, and Christie go out to dinner together, to clear the air. Jared suggested that that might not be the best idea.

“Jared, you and I have talked about this,” Donald said soothingly. “Chris is the guy.”

“Fine,” Jared told him. “If that’s your decision, that’s your decision.” He turned around and walked out. Soon after, Lewandowski asked to be excused, too.

That afternoon the campaign sent out the release announcing Christie’s appointment. “Governor Christie is an extremely knowledgeable and loyal person with the tools and resources to put together an unparalleled Transition Team, one that will be prepared to take over the White House when we win in November. I am grateful to Governor Christie for his contributions to this movement,” Donald said in a statement.

ONCE THE decision was made, Donald and Jared called Charlie Kushner to let him know about Christie officially heading the transition, both asking for his blessing and making sure that it would not irreparably damage the inlaws’ relationship. It was a move out of respect and necessity, and one made with a great deal of anxiety. Charlie’s temper was a thing of legend in the tristate area. He would rip into anybody anywhere, burning his victims’ eardrums with the volume of his bellow.

Charlie played it cool when Donald called to let him know about the transition choice. He listened patiently to what his machatunim had to say. He took a breath. “Listen,” he said into the phone. “The most important thing is that you win and that you are prepared.” To those who heard the phone call, or how Donald and Jared recounted it, Charlie seemed genuinely magnanimous. Helpful and kind, even. The private father-son follow-up conversation went differently. Those close to the family recalled that Charlie told Jared they could let Christie do his thing now. This would get taken care of down the road. And indeed, six months later, just days after the election, Christie got canned from his gig, after months of working without pay, traveling to the transition offices in Washington every Wednesday, planning for the day when he would be able to execute on all the preparation he and his team had built up. Many believed the decision in large part stemmed from Jared, which they believed had been his plan from the get-go.

THE FIRST conversation between Jared and Christie about the transition role was not a walk in the park. It allayed no concerns over their ability to play nice as they worked to build one of the most complex, consuming, technical, and hugely vital aspects of a general election campaign, and prepare for a potential thereafter. So they talked it out. Don. Jr. was away from Trump Tower for the day they were due to meet during the summer of 2016, leaving his office on the twenty-fifth floor open. Jared asked Christie to meet him there. Across a round table, he admitted that he had not handled their last interaction as well as he had hoped to. He had reflected on it, he said, and come to the conclusion that the most important thing was that Donald win and be as well prepared to be president as he could be. He had put the past behind him, and he wanted them to work together throughout this whole thing.

Christie was skeptical. Just how past it could a guy who carried the wallet his dad made him while he was in prison really be? Christie himself had not totally put it behind him, particularly months later, long after Jared had a hand in firing him from his role, and reports of Jared’s meetings with Russian officials and involvement in the firing of FBI director James Comey caught the attention of investigators in the Robert Mueller probe. “Good thing I saved his father’s prison number,” Christie would joke with friends.

The two would be working together whether Jared and Christie had let it go or not. They were both professionals, who both wanted the transition planning to go smoothly. Neither wanted to spend their time sparring when there was so much daunting work to get done in short order.

A few factors made Christie’s eventual ouster a slick operation to pull off. Donald not only declined to be involved in the transition plans but also refused to hear about, read about, or talk about them. He had no clue whether Christie had done a good job getting everything together, whether the team he’d assembled knew their stuff, whether enough of the right materials were produced, and whether the policies and protocols and frameworks they spent months detailing jibed with how he would want to form his government after November 9. He could only rely on what other people he trusted, like, say, his children and their spouses-told him about the process.

Donald’s choice to stay removed from the transition had nothing to do with ethical concerns, time constraints, or a mental compartmentalization that pushed him to focus on only one goal at a time. He wanted nothing to do with transition talk because he thought it was “bad karma.” When he read in the papers or saw on the news any detail of the transition planning, he’d call his friends and staffers, screaming bloody murder. They would explain to him that, bad karma or not, they were complying with a federal law on the books since the 1960s that required a transition team for an orderly transfer of power between an outgoing and an incoming administration. If he didn’t want to have a hand in that, that was fine. But they couldn’t just not go forward with the whole thing.

Jared, by contrast, involved himself in the minutia. He ran a meeting every Monday on the twenty-sixth floor of Trump Tower, at which he, Christie, Jeff Sessions, and Rich Bagger, Christie’s former chief of staff, who he brought on to serve as the transition’s executive director, discussed staffing, policy priorities, and the various aspects of the planning. If for some reason they could not all meet in person, a conference call was set up. Rarely, if ever, did this check-in get canceled entirely. Jared reviewed the résumés and signed off on every staffer transition officials wanted to bring on, from secretaries on up to national security and economic team members. All the vetting they were doing on potential Cabinet picks also needed his approval.

BY JUNE, the Trump kids had grown tired of Lewandowski. They thought he appealed to their father’s worst instincts; they knew to pull their dad back when he was running full speed toward the deep end and steer him in the other direction, but they felt Lewandowski egged him on to cannonball right in. He was a yes man when Donald desperately needed no guys around him, particularly as the campaign neared the general election phase.

They also hated the fact that Lewandowski was always the first to board Trump Force One with the candidate and travel with him to every rally, every campaign stop, kicking his feet up on the plane and settling in rather too comfortably, as they saw it. Plus, he was a mooch, who would order cases of Red Bull and blow through a full case daily, leaving his breath reeking of the energy drink. It did not sit well with the family that Donald was letting him stay in a Trump apartment. “He was the campaign manager, and all he cared about was the plane and being close to the boss, and he’d constantly take,” one associate remembered. “Why wasn’t he back in Trump Tower actually running the campaign instead of freeloading off the Trump attention?”

There was also the issue of all the negative headlines Lewandowski generated that spring. First he grabbed a reporter by the arm at an event in Florida and was arrested, but the charges were dropped. Then there was the shouting match with communications director Hope Hicks on Sixty-First and Park Avenue in mid-May, which was chronicled in the New York Post gossip column Page Six. Lewandowski was married, and Hope was the Trump family darling, a PR girl who worked on Ivanka’s brand before she was brought in-house and, later, got hired by Donald to work in the Trump Organization. That she fell into a romantic relationship with Lewandowski during the campaign became a sore spot between Hope and Ivanka and her siblings, who saw Hope as one of them. That it spilled out into a public spat in the very paper that had published every last detail of their father’s affair was unacceptable.

It wasn’t just the Trump kids who had problems with Lewandowski. Reince Priebus, then the chairman of the Republican National Committee, bristled around him. So did other key Trump loyalists, who viewed him as both unreliable and unable to pivot to a general election campaign. And so on June 20, before Donald even got down to the twenty-sixth floor, Don Jr., Michael Cohen, and Matt Calamari called in Lewandowski at seven o’clock in the morning. Why have him work a full day if they knew he was going to be out? And why give Donald the opportunity to vacillate and change his mind? “It’s over,” Don Jr. told Corey. Calamari walked him out.

“Things had to change,” Don Jr. said in an interview on Good Morning America after the ouster. “No, he didn’t see this coming. There was nothing malicious or even vicious about it.” He added that his father needed to transition to the general. “I think there’s also time to move on. Those are the tough decisions you have to make when you’re running for president.”

AS THE Republican National Convention in Cleveland inched closer, all the kids wheedled their way into the process of deciding who their father would choose as his vice presidential pick. By July 11, Donald and his team had whittled down the list to three names. Chris Christie was in there. So was Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House turned cable news pundit and Trump cheerleader. Indiana governor Mike Pence, a Christian conservative straight out of central casting, made the short list, too, as the clear favorite of many members of the Trump team, as well as Republican leaders like House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell. The first two, however, had proved themselves not only loyal friends but people Donald actually liked and wanted to shoot the shit with, two of his most valued qualities to Donald. Pence, he barely knew beyond the political boxes he checked and the polling numbers his aides presented him with.

They certainly made an odd couple: a thrice-married adulterer who boasted about grabbing women’s genitals, and a man who would not even go to a dinner with a woman who wasn’t his wife (whom he affectionately calls “Mother”).

That Monday started what looked a lot like sweeps week in the VP sweepstakes. On Sunday Donald met with Pence in Indiana. On Monday, Donald told people that the vetting file his team had prepared on Gingrich made Donald look like a saint by contrast, effectively knocking him out of the running. And so by the time Tuesday rolled around, it looked as though there were only two options on the table, though in Trumplandia, nothing is ever really a done deal until it is a done deal. And even then, he could still walk things back or reverse course, without acknowledging that a shift had even happened.

On Tuesday, Pence introduced the candidate at a private fund-raiser and public rally in Westfield, Indiana. “We are ready to put a fighter, a builder, and a patriot in the Oval Office,” he shouted to the crowd. Trump, ever the reality television host drumming up interest, asked his supporters how Pence was doing in his job as governor. “Good? I think so,” he joked. “I don’t know if he is going to be your governor or vice president. Who the hell knows?”

By that point, certainly not Donald Trump. That evening he got stranded in Indiana, somewhat of a catastrophe for a man of creature comforts who almost always opted to fly back to New York no matter how late a campaign stop ran or how nonsensical it was in the midst of a jampacked travel schedule. But Trump Force One had some sort of mechanical problem, so there he would stay.

He rolled through a phone interview with the Wall Street Journal, in which he told the paper that he was looking for a “fighter skilled in hand-to-hand-combat” as a running mate. Christie and Gingrich, he said, were “two extraordinary warriors.” Chemistry was important, too, which, he said also gave those two men a boost. “You either have it or you don’t. I clearly have it with Chris and Newt.” As for Pence, he didn’t know him enough to judge how much of an extraordinary warrior he could be, or whether they had chemistry or not.

At about 10:00 pm. Donald called Christie, who was in a hotel in Washington. “Are you ready?” Donald asked his friend. “Ready for what?” Christie asked. “Are you ready?” Donald repeated. Christie didn’t want to play coy. He asked if Donald was offering him the nomination.

Donald hemmed and hedged. He said he had not made his final, final decision yet, but wanted to know if Christie was up for it, and if his wife, Mary Pat, would be willing to pick up some slack on the trail, since Melania wasn’t keen on campaigning. Donald ended the call by telling him to stay by his phone.

Donald hung up and made a call to his family, telling them that he liked Christie. He felt comfortable with him and knew he’d tear the skin off Hillary Clinton in the general election, and he needed someone who’d willingly, skillfully do that. His kids quickly hung up with their father and called Keith Schiller, Donald’s longtime bodyguard. They were all coming to Indiana to stage a vice presidential intervention.

THE NEXT morning, Donald, Don Jr., Ivanka, Jared, and Eric, along with campaign chair Paul Manafort, turned up in Indiana for breakfast at the Pences’ home. Jared privately told Pence that he needed to turn on the charm for his father-in-law. Otherwise the gig would slip through his hands before the dishes were even cleared from the table that morning.

The meal went well enough that it buoyed Donald a bit, swaying him slightly from the assuredness he’d felt the night before. Still, that evening, he told Fox News’s Bret Baier that multiple contenders, maybe even as many as four, were still in the mix, though he was debating between two. “I tell you, Chris Christie is somebody I have liked for a long time,” he told the host. “He is a total professional. He’s a good guy, by the way. A lot of people don’t understand that.” He added that their meeting had gone “really well.” “He has always been very respectful to me and really appreciates what I’ve done politically,” he said. “And we had a great meeting.”

At the outset, he said he would announce his decision by Friday. Adding to the pressure, Friday happened to be the deadline for Pence to decide whether or not he would continue with his reelection bid. By Thursday evening, Donald was agitated and uncertain about Pence, chafing at being locked into making a choice under deadline. Jared reminded him that he was choosing a guy who’d make the ticket strongest and bridge the divide within the Republican Party, not a best buddy. Manafort agreed with Jared, adding that he worried Christie wouldn’t be as easy to handle and reminding Donald of Christie’s own presidential ambitions. He couldn’t choose someone who wanted the role for himself. Never mind the fact that very often that is not the case; Donald heard them.

But he was still uneasy. He didn’t know what to do, but his family was pushing him in Pence’s direction. That evening, a terrorist drove a nineteen-ton rental truck onto the sidewalk of the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France, after the annual Bastille Day fireworks, killing eighty-six people and injuring dozens more. Out of respect for the victims, the campaign initially decided to delay the announcement. But Donald grew restless, and a little before ten o’clock in the morning, he tweeted out his pick: “I am pleased to announce that l have chosen Governor Mike Pence as my Vice Presidential running mate. News conference tomorrow at 11:00 AM.”

When he talked to Christie, Donald told the governor that Pence just looked like a vice president. I have to take him, he said. He told him that if he won, any other job he wanted, all he’d have to do was ask for it.

LONG BEFORE the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Jared reached out to two speechwriters, Matthew Scully and John McConnell. These guys were the real deal; they worked closely with President George W. Bush in crafting his speeches, including the addresses he gave after the September 11 attacks. Jared wanted them to come up with a bang-up speech for his stepmother-in-law to give onstage at the RNC. Melania was such a reticent campaigner that she hardly ever accompanied her husband on his many campaign stops. She had a young son at home in New York whose life she wanted to keep as normal as possible. She still tried to pick Barron up at school as often as possible, though that grew increasingly difficult as time wore on, given the traffic her Secret Service detail caused at dismissal time. None of this politics stuff had been her idea; she liked their life, and why shouldn’t she? Most of it was guarded within their gilded doors and planes and homes on golf courses either bearing her husband’s name or at which he was the boss. She was a former model, so the attention wasn’t the problem. But she was not a native English speaker, and she saw how the press ripped her husband to shreds every day. No one in their right mind would be happy about throwing themselves to those wolves.

Jared wanted her rare appearance to be a hit. Not only would this boost the campaign, appealing to Americans who might have been turned off by the candidate’s multiple marriages and treatment of women, but also maybe if she knocked it out of the park, she would be more willing to jump into the political fray more often. She polled well, and with Trump going up in the coming months against the first female general election candidate, having a woman on the team whom people liked, who softened and defended her husband, couldn’t hurt. McConnell and Scully agreed. About a month before the convention, they shot her over a draft. A response never came.

Instead, Melania turned to people within her inner circle to rip the draft to shreds. It did not sound like her. She wanted to essentially start fresh. One of the people who helped was Meredith McIver, a former professional ballet dancer and Trump employee who had helped write Donald’s book Think Like a Billionaire. A handful of others had their hands in it as well.

None of them stopped Melania from getting onstage on the Monday night of the convention to deliver an address to 23 million viewers that stole entire phrases and themes from a speech Michelle Obama had given years earlier at a Democratic National Convention.

Immediately the Trump campaign spun into damage control mode. It was nearly impossible to understand how this colossal, and entirely avoidable, mistake could have slipped by so many people. How could a gang who couldn’t protect the potential First Lady from not straight-up ripping off a former First Lady’s speech word-for-word be trusted to run a winning campaign, let alone protect the United States of America? Melania Trump was barely offstage before journalists figured out that much of her speech was borrowed.

It took little more time before the finger-pointing within the Trump campaign began. On Tuesday morning, Ivanka and Jared blew off steam in their hotel gym, as did a number of other campaign officials. Jared walked up to one official who was pedaling idly on a stationary bike as he tried to catch up on the rest of the headlines, as if anyone was talking about anything other than Melania-gate, and for a brief moment forget about the whole thing. “You know, this was all Manafort’s fault,” he told the official, who questioned why it was Manafort’s responsibility or duty to proofread the candidate’s wife’s speech and make sure she hadn’t plagiarized it from Michelle Obama. A month later, Manafort was fired.

IN THE process of figuring out who the campaign should bring in to replace Manafort, members of the team knew they had to find someone who could right a ship that, by that point, was foundering. The whole tone of the Republican National Convention was dour, downtrodden, and fearful. By contrast, the Democratic Convention felt like the shining city on a hill in which most Americans would prefer to live, regardless of how realistic or euphemistic it was. Donald was entangled in public feuds with a former beauty pageant contestant who said he’d made unkind remarks about her weight and the Khans, a Gold Star Muslim family who criticized the Trump campaign’s rhetoric at the DNC.

His poll numbers dipped. They needed a new jolt. Jared started asking his friends and campaign advisers close to his father-in-law for options. Ivanka knew that bringing a woman on might help with the optics, even if, as a fairly obvious political calculation, it would likely be met with snickering. Ultimately, Jared believed no one would run the campaign better than he would, he had been the de facto campaign manager for months anyway, but he agreed with his wife. He started asking around for names of women to whom he could give the title of campaign manager, though, she would mostly just be going out on TV, and talking like the campaign manager. He would still call the shots. The people he asked were gobsmacked. What woman in her right mind would come on board, knowing that she was getting a fake job to make Donald look good while Jared was the one actually running the show? He wouldn’t tell her that, he’d reply.

It was under those conditions that, not long after, Kellyanne Conway joined the campaign, officially becoming the first female campaign manager in a general election bid in the history of the United States.

ON MONDAY, September 19, the Secret Service officially started protecting Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner and their children. Her brothers hadn’t yet received protection.

Her father had received his detail nearly ten months earlier, going with the Secret Service code name Mogul. Since the call signs within a First Family all begin with the same first letter, the rest of the Trumps fell in line with M names, as well. This naming tradition, which dates back to President Harry Truman, has since its inception sometimes been a way for commanders in chief to live out their fantasies, a game of high-stakes make-believe in which the most powerful men in the world get to try on a name to match the image of themselves they wished were true. Truman, for instance, decided to be called General, though he had only been a captain in World War 1. The Kennedys’ names all referred to Camelot. The Obamas stuck with Renegade and Renaissance.

But the point of the practice is much more significant than fantasy fulfillment. The call signs are used in an emergency, when protection enacts continuity of operation plans. If there is a crisis, it’s safer to say “We have Mogul” than “We have Donald Trump,” particularly if the Secret Service is operating on unsecure communications lines. But the Secret Service does not come up with these names themselves. Family members are given a series of names from the White House Communications Agency from which each protectee can choose.

Melania settled on Muse. Ivanka landed on Marvel. Her brothers received their details later, but Eric, a spectacular shot, chose Marksman, and Don Jr., for obvious reasons, picked Mountaineer. From the start, Ivanka was keen on the idea, of security protecting her and her young family; part of it had to do with the aura it gave her as a political power player. In Washington, at least, the presence of a detail, the men with earpieces and the black SUVs, is a status symbol. It’s the swamp equivalent to a bona fide entourage in Hollywood.

The man assigned to head Ivanka’s initial detail, it just so happens, was nicknamed Hollywood by his Secret Service colleagues and former protectees. He loved to make small talk about designers and celebrities and what clothes everyone was wearing. Instantly he fell into step with the family. He had just spent years as an integral member of First Lady Michelle Obama’s detail, so he was not only sensitive to protecting a family managing children not necessarily of Washington, and also understood the intricacies of working with a female protectee. It is not exactly comfortable, for either party, to have a male Secret Service member accompany a woman protectee to a gynecologist appointment, for instance, or a Pilates class. Hollywood, though, had spent years learning how to make it more palatable and less intrusive. He understood the importance of keeping his protectees’ public and personal lives separate, and immediately deflected attention from them enough so that they were able to take weekend trips or observe Shabbat without cameras snapping photos of them at every turn.

Ivanka, for her part, had spent a lifetime surrounded by live-in help. Many members of First Families past have never had nannies and housekeepers and bodyguards around. But for Ivanka, having people around whose sole job was to serve and protect her was a way of life that had been ingrained in her since she was born. This part of the transition suited her just fine.

It helped that the communication between Jared and Ivanka and their detail was open. From the get~go, they were honest with their detail about the possibility of their moving to Washington, which helped the Secret Service come up with a plan from the beginning. They instantly welcomed the detail into their lives, and members of their detail grew quite fond of the couple. When they visited the Kushner family home in New Jersey to observe the Jewish High Holy Days, Jared would recommend places nearby for the detail to grab a good dinner or a drink at the bar. (He surprised them by picking semi-cool dive bars that none of the Secret Service men could believe Jared himself had actually been to, though he insisted that he had.)

And as the Trump-Kushners gravitated more to the five-star hotel and private-plane end of the spectrum, a place on their detail became one of the more desirable assignments in the administration. In administrations past, the plum gigs had usually been on the First Lady’s Detail, known as the FLD. Jokingly, agents have dubbed the FLD “Fine Living and Dining,” because most First Ladies make so many trips to so many lovely places, go out to the best restaurants, and take a few vacations with their kids, with their detail in tow. This First Lady stuck closer to home, or homes, in the Trumps’ case. She rarely made public appearances or traveled anywhere other than to Trump Tower, Bedminster, New Jersey, or Mar-a-Lago. She didn’t socialize outside much, either.

Ivanka, on the other hand, more than made up for it. She crisscrossed the country, flitted about vacation spots at luxury resorts, frequented glitzy parties and hot restaurants, and stayed at several city and beach and country homes. In jest, some agents started referring to Ivanka’s detail as FLD Lite. Since the typical FLD didn’t exist in Trumplandia. Ivanka’s, more than anyone’s, was the assignment to get.

IVANKA’S SIBLINGS had a tougher time. Don Jr., “Marksman”, in particular chafed at the idea of protection, for several reasons. For starters, he was generally more private than his sister. He went to his home in the Catskills to fish and build bonfires and roam around on ATVs with his kids most weekends, and took off for days long hunting trips in the most remote parts of the Canadian bush, looking for moose, and ten-day boys’ fishing trips in Alaska. He wore flannel shirts and baseball caps, sometimes full-camp suits with neon orange vests. He flew mostly commercial, in coach, hopscotching from one flight to a small airport onto a tiny plane into a farflung town no one on the Upper East Side had ever heard of.

“I have friends that they only knew me as Don,” he’s said of the people he meets out upstate or in hunting camps. “They find out what my last name is and they’re like ‘I had no idea.’ You see them the next time and they’re trying to treat you differently and you’re like ‘what happened.’ Why should that make any difference? They’ll say, ‘You’re right.’ It’s a great equalizer.”

Some of the guys he’d met as just Don more than a decade before at shooting ranges upstate were law enforcement officers. Don, at the time, was just starting off in the business world at his father’s company, and these guys were just starting off in the police force, or at the lowest levels of the Secret Service. As Don’s role and responsibilities within the Trump Organization grew, so too did his shooting buddies. Some of the guys he’d gone shooting with and hung around with upstate were now assigned to follow him around and look after his family.

All of a sudden he went from no-last-name city boy Don to protectee. He was entitled to their service and responsible for pseudo-managing them. For a guy who’d spent years being uncomfortable with them treating him differently because of his last name, this crossed into prickly territory almost overnight.

That Don and his wife Vanessa had five kids living in New York City didn’t help matters. That meant that Vanessa had to manage essentially six different details, one for her and her husband and one for each of her children. Her phone lit up with texts and calls from agents, telling her one kid was a few minutes late to meet them on their designated street corner; asking if they would be on the north or south side of the street, what time she planned to leave the house for their drive upstate for the weekend, or who was staying late at school that afternoon. “It is literally overwhelming,” a former Secret Service agent explained. “Trying to manage all that with seasoned staff would be mind-numbing. To have someone who’s never done it before try and juggle all of that? Well, it would just be horrific.”

The head of the detail didn’t make it easier. Unlike Hollywood, he didn’t instantly mesh with the family. There were some preliminary conversations about a potential move to DC, so they put him in place as a temporary stopgap who might be replaced if the eventual relocation did happen. But it didn’t, and they ended up with what came to be a revolving door of agents and shifting dynamics. It was hard for them to get into a rhythm or find a comfortable relationship. “The whole thing has just been sloppy,” the former agent said. “The agents have been sloppy. The communication has been sloppy. Don’s back-and-forth attitude about them has been sloppy.” Hiring someone to help Vanessa coordinate might have made it easier, but the family didn’t spend the money.

It was simpler for Eric and his wife Lara. At the time, it was just the two of them. Lara got pregnant in the midst of the campaign, so for months there was no extra detail to coordinate, and they had forty weeks to plan for an eventual detail.

Tiffany’s detail was perhaps the laxest of all. One morning at the end of May, she walked in the front door of the Golden Pear in East Hampton, a tiny, teeming see-and-be-seen spot smack in the middle of Newtown Lane, the town’s little main street. The Golden Pear is some two hundred feet from the Monogram Shop, a little personalization store that, each year since the 2004 presidential election, has sold plastic cups labeled with campaign logos for each major party candidate, sold for $3 a piece to Hamptonites to display on their marble islands or pass around at their catered beach barbecues. The shop owner starts keeping track after the Super Tuesday primary contests in March, and at the close of business each day, she handwrites the total number of cups sold for each candidate on a piece of paper that she hangs in her store window.

Since this custom started, the cups had accurately predicted the winner, first with George W. Bush, then with Obama, twice. But this cycle, the cups, like every pollster and expert and analyst, got it wrong. Up until the weekend before Election Day, the Monogram Shop sold 4,946 for Hillary Clinton, and just 3,388 for Donald Trump.

Tiffany didn’t stop in to buy one of her father’s cups that morning, as Chelsea Clinton once did the year her mother ran against Barack Obama in the primaries. She chose to spend her $3, likely four times that, given their prices, on four iced coffees with her boyfriend. She dropped one iced coffee, and no one flinched or helped her pick it up, not even her detail, who was standing at a nearby table noticeably playing a game on his phone.

Most people didn’t notice her, besides the brief spill disturbance. She was in a baseball cap, and her security presence was so minimal that other customers readily came in and out both the front and back doors without so much as a glance. At one point someone did approach her, at which point she perked up, expecting some sort of comment, though who knows which way that would have gone. Her detail didn’t step in to block the approach, which would have been unnecessary, anyway, since the patron was simply asking if he could steal the extra chair at her table.

One customer that morning had also been in the Golden Pear one day in the 1990s when Chelsea Clinton and her several Secret Service agents walked in. “The world basically stopped,” he recalled. “For Tiffany, no one really noticed, and the people who did were intentionally looking the opposite direction.”

Chapter Three

Election Day

POLICE SHUT down Fifty-Seventh Street between Second and Third Avenues midmorning on Election Day for the Trump motorcade. The cars slid up in front of Public School 59, a school turned polling station for the day, just blocks from Trump Tower. Red and blue lights flashed against silver barricades set up to hold back the dozens of people who’d gathered outside to get a glimpse of the candidate and both cheer and boo him before he cast his ballot. He and Melania stepped out of a black SUV, Ivanka, Jared, and their daughter Arabella following seconds behind.

They all went down to the school’s gymnasium, filled at that point with agents in boxy suits and earpieces, cameramen clicking away, and reporters shouting questions at the Trumps. The family, in all neutrals, popped against the gym’s baby-blue-and banana-yellow walls. Apart from Donald, who’d walked in wearing only a suit jacket, all of them kept their coats on inside. Melania’s Balmain coat, with its wide lapel and gold buttons, hung on her shoulders, leaving her arms free. Ivanka kept her cream trench coat belted tightly over her black turtleneck and pants. Jared’s green utility coat remained over the gray V-neck he’d layered over blue button-down, black jeans, and white Common Project sneakers.

Ivanka approached the registration table first. “Here you go,” the lady behind the table told her. “What you’re going to do is fill out the ballot in one of the privacy booths behind you. When you’re done with that, you bring it to the scanner under the basketball net.” The woman asked Arabella if she wanted a sticker, and Ivanka smiled and brushed her daughter’s hair back as she thanked the woman. She picked up the ballot and showed it to her father. They looked eyes. This was really happening. Melania was next to approach the table, followed by Donald himself. Jared went up last. “Last name Kushner,” he told the woman.

Don Jr., his wife, Vanessa, and four of their five kids showed up to the same polling station a little while later.

Election Day happened to be Eric and Lara’s second wedding anniversary, and the two voted a few blocks south, at the Fifty-Third Street Public Library. Eric proudly took a photo of his filled-in ballot, and tweeted it out to his followers. It is, of course, illegal to take photos in the voting booth in New York, a fact that many of his nearly two million followers were quick to point out. He later deleted the tweet.

They all wound up back at Trump Tower. Don Jr. did a bunch of local radio hits. They made calls to supporters and took calls from busybodies wondering what the mood was like inside. By around five o’clock, when the first dismal round of returns started rolling in, the three eldest kids started calling in to local stations in battleground states to make a last push. Jared made calls to a few media friends. He asked one high-up executive at a major media organization who’d known Kushner both professionally and personally for years what he was hearing about Florida, which at that point was their last hope for any path to victory that night. The executive told him it didn’t look great, but what did he expect? “Did we get your support?” Jared asked. “No,” the executive told him. “No you did not.” Jared hung up and called Matt Drudge, another macher in the media circle he’d accumulated. The media had been off about the Trump campaign the whole time, Drudge told him. Wait until the next couple rounds of exit polls come out, he said. That’s when things could start to shift.

Since before five o’clock that morning, campaign officials had been huddled on the fifth floor of Trump Tower, essentially an expansive unfinished utility closet with concrete floors and no heat, which staffers in the early part of the campaign used as a makeshift headquarters. By the time the sun set that evening, dozens of people packed the room as then national field director Bill Stepien zeroed in on the campaign model, mostly focused on Florida, and Jared and Ivanka and Eric and Don began milling about, poring over maps and models and numbers coming in from their guys on the ground and officials in Florida feeding them what they knew. Donald was up in his triplex atop the tower until after eight o’clock, when he called Ivanka, asking where she was. He told her to leave the fifth floor and come up to the fourteenth, the official headquarters-and he would meet her there.

They looked like sardines, the lot of them. Donald, Melania, the kids, Pence, Kellyanne Conway, Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, Chris Christie, Mark Shot, the whole MAGA mod squad, stuffed into that corporate looking office, cramped around giant screens and projections and TV screens as campaigners explained the numbers coming in and the New York Times prediction needle shifted slightly in Donald’s direction. They stayed there until after eleven, when networks and wire services called Florida for him and the tide started turning in other battleground states. They took the executive elevator straight to the triplex, the family, the Pences, Conway, Christie and his son Andrew, Bannon, Stephen Miller, Priebus, Dave Bossie. The rest either stayed on the fourteenth floor or started to make their way a few blocks west to the victory party at the Midtown Hilton.

Miller sheepishly approached a few of them and told them he had prepared an exquisitely drafted concession speech. “What do we have on the victory speech?” someone asked Miller. “Bullet points,” he said.

So they pulled out a laptop, and Miller, Pence, Ivanka, Jared, Don, Eric, and Christie started writing. Ivanka pointed out that it would be a great opportunity to reach out to women, who undoubtedly would need it after watching the first female major party candidate lose. Maybe we can mention parental leave or child care credits, she suggested. “Vank,” Jared interrupted. “This isn’t the speech for that. We have plenty of time to get to that later.” The rest of the people around the table exchanged glances and took a breath. If anyone could say that to her, it was Jared. They were just glad he had.

Donald had been watching the returns on the small TV set up in the kitchen, repeatedly calling to check in on the victory speech he would have to give in a few hours. “We’re just polishing it!” they yelled to him, though, technically, there was not yet a fully formed speech to polish. “The truth is, we were cramming,” one of the people around the table said. “But we couldn’t let him know that.”

Once it became clear that things were going in his direction, the mood shifted to a mix of giddiness and shock. Jared threw his arm around Christie, saying “We did this.” Conway kept repeating, “Can you believe this?” Melania looked shocked, and mostly concerned with Barron, who seemed whip-tired on the couch. It was well after midnight at this point, and she focused on keeping him awake on the couch. Donald remained stoic, and Pence seemed a little more celebratory. Karen Pence, one observer noted, looked as though she were at a funeral.

The ride over to the Hilton took less than ten minutes. There they waited in a tiny holding area off to the side of the main stage. That’s when the Associated Press officially called the race for Donald Trump, at about 2:30 am. Huma Abedin’s name flashed on the screen of Kellyanne’s iPhone, which she had on silent. A day earlier, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, had emailed Conway with Abedin’s number. If Donald should win, he’d written, they would call him within fifteen minutes of the AP’s call. Abedin would be her point of contact.

Pence had already gone onstage to address the crowd, telling them that they were sure they had won, but were waiting for a Clinton concession and an official call. After Donald took the phone and accepted Clinton’s concession and congratulations, Pence walked over to his wife Karen and told her that they’d done it. They’d won.

“I know,” she told him coldly.

“Well, how about a kiss?”

“Mike,” she said, turning to him, “you got what you wanted.”

DONALD, NOW officially the president-elect, walked onstage just before the clock struck three in the morning to talk for about fifteen minutes. “To Melania and Don and Ivanka and Eric and Tiffany and Barron, I love you and I thank you,” he said about halfway through his speech, after thanking his parents and siblings. “Especially for putting up with all of those hours. This was tough. This was tough. This political stuff is nasty, and it is tough, so I want to thank my family very much. Really fantastic. Thank you all. Thank you all. Lara, unbelievable job. Unbelievable. Vanessa, thank you. Thank you very much. What a great group.” Incidentally, and accidentally, he forgot to thank Jared, the de facto shadow campaign manager, a body man meets yes-man, bound to him in law and desire to make their families as rich and powerful, at least outwardly so, as possible.

They got a few hours of sleep before Jared started making calls to close friends and campaign associates. Many of them had told him that November 9 would be a day of reckoning. They’d spent months warning him that people thought of him as a psychopath for supporting this campaign, or at best an asshole. They drilled into his head that no one was going to want to talk to him after the election, and that he’d face a steep uphill climb to rebuild his reputation and that of his family. What they called his “big real estate reboot” would begin on the morning after Election Day. “Prepare yourself,” they would say. “You’re going to get back to earth, and it’s not going to be the same place you left it.” His response to all of it was a quiet, repetitive “I know.”

That morning played out differently. The big real estate reboot was scrapped. They had all been so woefully wrong. He and Ivanka had prayed for the right outcome in the election, he told his friends, and that his father-in-law was going to be a great president.

Days earlier, on the Saturday before the election, after sundown when they could once again drive, they’d hopped in a car toward Cambria Heights in Queens, a largely black middle-class neighborhood where, on Francis Lewis Boulevard, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the seventh grand rebbe of the Lubavitcher Hasidic dynasty, was buried alongside his father-in-law in 1994. The site of his tomb is known as the Ohel, the Hebrew word for tent, referring to the structure built around the grave. It is open day and night. Observers and believers have been making pilgrimages up to the Old Montefiore Cemetery in droves for the last near-quarter century because the rebbe, it is believed, will deliver those who visit the Ohel to God. A place to ask for blessings and scrawl prayers on the provided notepaper and toss them into the grave.

It was uncommonly warm that November Saturday, hanging in the mid-fifties even after dark. Jared turned up without a jacket, in a black cashmere sweater, flatfront khakis, and a yarmulke, Ivanka in a slanted black beret, belted coat, and bare legs. In the Ohel, they dropped their prayers into the grave before making their way back home. Friends joked that they weren’t sure exactly what Jared meant when he referred to the “right outcome,” and whether their prayers had in fact been answered or rebuffed.

AFTER JARED made a round of phone calls, he and Ivanka took their eldest children to school, as they often did, at Ramaz, the Modern Orthodox Jewish day school on the Upper East Side. They were a bit frazzled and tired but buzzing, and more apparent, they were a bit late. The school has a separate elevator to take parents up to preschool classrooms, and because they were running behind that morning, the elevator had already gone upstairs. So they waited. They were sitting ducks in a fishbowl. One by one, parents approached the couple, offering their congratulations. The win had stunned them, they told her. It was remarkable. She must be so happy, so proud. Wow, others offered. “She beamed,” one parent remembered of lvanka. “Graciously, she accepted every last word.”

UNTIL THEN, parents at the school and members of their uptown shul had been split on the couple and their involvement in the campaign. On the one hand, the campaign had ignited a new wave of anti-Semitism and hundreds of dog whistles to white nationalists, alarming the Jewish community. After the president tweeted an image of Hillary Clinton with a Star of David and a pile of cash, one of Jared’s own employees, Observer culture writer Dana Schwartz, wrote an open letter addressed to Jared in his paper, asking him to address the anti-Semitic vitriol spreading in his father-in-law’s name that “applies equally to your wife and your daughter.”

“Mr. Kushner, I ask you,” she wrote, “what are you going to do about this?”

Jared wrote his own op-ed in response, under the headline “The Donald Trump I Know.” He defended his father-in-law as “tolerant” and said that “the from the heart reactions of this man are instinctively pro-Jewish and pro-Israel.” He invoked the story of his grandparents, who survived the Holocaust, as proof that he knew “the difference between actual, dangerous intolerance versus these labels that get tossed around in an effort to score political points.”

Some of Jared’s own cousins, reigniting a more than decade old family feud that had been punctuated by Jared’s father getting sent to federal prison, took issue with this defense. “I have a different takeaway from my Grandparents’ experience in the war,” Marc Kushner wrote in a Facebook post shortly after, linking to the op-ed. “it is our responsibility as the next generation to speak up against hate. Antisemitism or otherwise.” Another first cousin, Jacob Schulder, was harsher. In a comment on Marc’s post, he wrote: “That my grandparents have been dragged into this is a shame. Thank you Jared for using something sacred and special to the descendants of Joe and Rae Kushner to validate the sloppy manner in which you’ve handled this campaign. Kudos to you for having gone this far; no one expected this. But for the sake of the family name, which may have no meaning to you but still has meaning to others, please don’t invoke our grandparents in vain just so you can sleep better at night. It is self serving and disgusting.”

Jared’s parents, Charlie and Seryl, were supportive of the Trump campaign, hosting a couple of open houses at their Long Branch, New Jersey, beach house on Donald’s behalf throughout the campaign. It wasn’t an option not to throw their support behind Donald; in effect, that would mean not throwing their support behind Jared. They were proud of what he was doing, and whatever he needed, they would do. That their son was effectively running a presidential campaign gave them enough naches for them to put their own distaste at some of the campaign nonsense and rhetoric aside.

Just grab em by the …

The Access Hollywood tape, for instance, rippled their household. But what rankled them wasn’t Donald’s language, that he’d boasted about using his special privilege as a celebrity to grab women by the genitals, or kissing a married woman he wooed with furniture shopping. It was that their son had walked to Trump Tower the day after the story broke to help handle the fallout. It was a Saturday, and their son shouldn’t have been working. That, they told him, wasn’t quite keeping Shabbat.

WHAT DIVIDED the community most unfolded over the summer of 2016. As the campaign worked with the Republican National Committee to put together the schedule for its convention in Cleveland, the Trump-Kushners threw out an idea. Why not ask Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, who’d shepherded Ivanka through her conversion process years earlier and led the congregation the Trump-Kushners attended in New York, to deliver an invocation, an opening prayer to kick off the convention? Lookstein had commanded the pulpit at the Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, or KJ, for decades, taking over the gig from his father. Israel’s Bar-Ilan University had granted him an honorary doctorate in recognition for the “influential role he has played in deepening Jewish values and heritage among American Jewry.”

The rabbi agreed, a personal decision that he said he made to honor her request, out of respect for her and their relationship. In the lead-up to the convention, he settled on an invocation that prayed for the welfare of the government, thanking God for translating into reality the biblical command to “proclaim liberty throughout the land for all the inhabitants thereof” and for the constitutional government that fostered “the American ideals of democracy, freedom, justice and equality for all, regardless of race, religion or national origin.” He would ask God to help us form a government that would “protect us with sound strategy and strength; which will unite use with words of wisdom and acts of compassion.”

By all measures, it was a prayer most Americans, particularly those concerned by some of the campaign rhetoric and policies taking shape and gang-who-couldn’t-shoot-straight-ness of it all, would have been heartened to hear. On a subtler level, it seemed almost like a troll of the candidate’s position on immigration and concerns over his tolerance for people who looked and lived differently than he did.

Of course, that is not why the Trump-Kushners asked their rabbi to participate. “Jared and Ivanka felt like this was simple, a way to honor their rabbi with whom they had a close relationship,” a member of the congregation recalled. But the simple things often turned complicated, in an instant, for everyone attached to the campaign, Javanka included.

The Trump campaign hastily sent a list of speakers, including all four adult Trump children, vice presidential nominee Mike Pence, former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, former underwear model Antonio Sabato Jr., and Lookstein. No one told the rabbi that his name would be included on a publicized list, which means he had no time to inform the campaign officials that he was not, in fact, giving a speech at the convention. He was simply offering a prayer.

The distinction may have made a difference to his congregants. Or maybe it wouldn’t have, given the immediate backlash he faced once the announcement went public. Congregants started an online petition, signed by nearly 850 people, condemning the rabbi for lending his blessing to Donald Trump.

Lookstein reconsidered. In a letter emailed to his congregants and friends, he wrote that “the whole matter turned from rabbinic to political, something which was never intended.” Politics, he added, divide people, and he had spent his live uniting. “In the interest of bringing our community together, I have asked to be relieved of my commitment to deliver the invocation.” Some guilt did wash over Ivanka and Jared for the trouble they had caused the rabbi and for the controversy kicked up in their community. At the same time, they felt like they were getting hung out to dry and didn’t see this as their fault in the slightest. “An amateur level of organization created a problem that did not need to exist,” one person who was part of the planning said. But friends and members of their congregation whispered that they should have known better. “Part of this was that when you’ve become a bigger fucking deal,” one congregant mused, “everything you do becomes a bigger fucking deal, and for some reason they didn’t catch on to that.

SOME PEOPLE in the Trump-Kushners’ community, KJ members, Ramaz parents, people who went to the Modern Orthodox yeshiva school that Jared attended in Paramus, New Jersey, thought it was a big fucking deal to have one of their own become a big fucking deal. On Saturday mornings throughout the campaign, as the rabbis spoke or cantors chanted, congregants would whisper that it was somewhat of a comfort to have him in the candidate’s ear. He was a guy they davened with, who grew up the way they did, with the same kinds of values and priorities they were all taught in school and at home and in temple on Shabbat. “It is still someone who we grew up with, who’s close to someone who may be the president,” one acquaintance from high school explained at the time. “That is never bad.”

Many agreed, however, that if they had their druthers, and it was up to them to choose a guy in their community who would be the one so close to and advising a US presidential candidate, Jared would not have ranked high on their list. The consensus was that, without a doubt, there were smarter, more accomplished guys in his high school class alone who would have been perfect geniuses in that role. With Jared, the feeling was more along the lines of, Well, I guess he’ll do.

“He would not be the one who you’d be like, ‘Oh, thank God he’s there,’ but it’s a comfort,” one of his high school classmates said. “He wouldn’t be a firstor secondor third-round draft pick. But, great, we have someone there. He’s totally solid and fine, maybe more savvy than smart.”

IN TERMS of his relationship with Jewish community leaders beyond his own New York, New Jersey bubble, many influential members corresponded with Kushner often, voicing their concerns and urging him to push certain policy positions. They were hearted by his father-in-law’s rhetoric when it came to his support for Israel. And for all the attention Steve Bannon got for the alt-right, white nationalist, neo-Nazi agenda pushed on Breitbart News, the website he helmed, he was an unabashed hardliner on Israel.

Jewish organizations could tell that Kushner was overwhelmed and overworked. His father-in-law had tasked the guy, at the time a thirty-five-year-old real estate developer who’d never worked for a place he or his family didn’t own, with solving Middle East peace, along with all of his other campaign duties. It is true that he had a close familial tie to Israel; Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stayed at the Kushner family home when he came to the States, sometimes sleeping in Jared’s childhood bed during his stays. But years of political know-how and understanding of an issue so complex that it has eluded seasoned diplomats for decades isn’t like conjunctivitis. It doesn’t rub off on shared pillows, nor is it picked up in conversations with a father’s friends over Shabbat dinner.

So Jared frequently relied on feedback and input from these organizations, though it was clear he barely had the time to do so. “He’d reply to emails with letters instead of words, always very short, almost like he was running around on a BlackBerry with one hand tied,” one Zionist organization leader recalled. “It was never a substantive discussion. It was more just trying to keep his head above water and get done what he absolutely had to get done.”

He did engage with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the all-powerful pro-Israel lobbying group, throughout the campaign, particularly after his father-in-law hit the skids with the committee. Donald had particularly strained things when he said he would refrain from taking sides in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians so he could fairly, credibly serve as a neutral negotiator. That, of course, is a third rail for organizations like AIPAC, particularly for a presumptive Republican nominee to take. The group’s nerves were already frayed after eight years of the Obama administration, which many perceived as a dark period of the relationship between the American and Israeli government. They would need stronger assurances of support from the campaign, particularly given its questionable ties to anti-Semitism and white nationalists, if they were going to get anywhere together.

Kushner saw AIPAC’s annual conference, an event held at the end of March 2016, as a place for him to both make good and make his commitments to Israel clear. The initial plan was that Donald would do a question-and-answer session at the event, but it soon got scrapped in favor of a speech. Jared suggested that Donald use a teleprompter, which, given the typical freewheeling, meandering style he naturally gravitates toward, was simple self-preservation. The stakes here were too high to let an ill-informed, breezy throwaway line turn the whole community against the campaign for good. Jared also urged his father-in-law to use the speech to lay out specifics that the audience would eat up. The remarks could be a proof point that Donald would not only charm them and entertain them but knew a little bit about what he was talking about here and, most importantly, in fact, unequivocally have their back.

Jared solicited the advice of Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the United States. Dermer had talked through what could happen with the United Nations after the election with the Clinton campaign, and he wanted to share the Israeli government’s point of view with both sides, in language he felt comfortable with. At first he sent over talking points Donald could use for the Q&A, but Jared requested a phone call once he knew the campaign had to plan for a speech.

On the call, Dermer made it clear that he was doing this as a service for all campaigns. He talked for a solid hour about the UN, about Iran, about hard lines and language that was very important to Israelis, and about many people who would be in the audience that day. It was a solid foundation from which Jared and campaign officials could draw in drafting a speech, based on what fit in with their own agendas and strategies and broader foreign policy goals.

The truth was that those broader agendas, strategies, and goals, particularly when it came to foreign policy, were primordial at best at that stage. And so having Dermer spell out a fully fleshed-out policy was like getting your hands on the answer key the night before a final exam that was worth 50 percent of your grade at the end of the semester. As Dermer laid out, piece by piece, bit by bit, the position of the Israeli government and the ways in which they wanted to hear a US commander in chief relate to them and address the rest of the Middle East, someone was clearly taking notes.

The next day Jared sent a draft of the speech to the billionaire casino owner, GOP kingmaker, and major Jewish philanthropist magnate Sheldon Adelson, who promptly sent it over to Dermer. The text Dermer read was like a transcript of what he had told Jared in their phone call, right down to the jokes. It was basically wholesale theft.

Jared continued to polish over the weekend. He loved it. When Jared called Dermer back to give him a preview, it seemed that the campaign had used what Dermer said in their phone call almost exactly, adding a few familiar Trumpian rhetorical flourishes, a bunch of believe me’s and plugs for his Art of the Deal. It was Dermer’s substance, almost verbatim, put through a Trump Speak machine and fed into a teleprompter for him to read to the crowd.

The speech went through three main takeaways, all of which were very much in line with the AIPAC bent. First, his priority would be to “dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran,” which he called “catastrophic for America, for Israel and for the whole of the Middle East.” He laid out an uncharacteristically specific plan for what he, as president, would do and the specific problems he said the deal failed to address. Second, he vowed to move the American embassy to Jerusalem. Third, he ripped into what he called “the utter weakness and incompetence of the United Nations,” which, he said, was not a friend to freedom, nor to the United States, and surely not to Israel. He vowed to end the discussions swirling about an attempt to bring a Security Council resolution on the terms of an eventual agreement between Israel and Palestine. “The United States must oppose this resolution and use the power of our veto, which I will use as president 100 percent.” Next, he told the audience that Palestinians need to stop treating those who murder Jews as heroes and lionizing hatred in textbooks and mosques.

But despite his son-in-law’s warnings, the candidate couldn’t help himself. He could read an audience, that was his one natural skill, so he threw them some red meat. “With President Obama in his final year” he began, before interrupting himself with a “Yay!” Like any performer worth his salt, he paused to let the crowd applaud and roar. He chuckled to himself, his lips turning upward in a grin, before he turned his head to take in the crowd.

This was what he fed off, what set off that little clinking in his brain, like a junkie getting a first taste before opening up wide. He heard the clapping and he wanted more. So he careened off the teleprompter and spiraled straight into rally mode, straight down into the mordancy that played so well to his base.

He kept pausing and shaking his head as the rush settled into thought bubbles. “He may be the worst thing to ever happen to Israel, believe me, believe me,” he said to more hoots and hollers. “And you know it and you know it better than anybody.”

His audience didn’t necessarily disagree with these sentiments. But members of AIPAC’s executive team started to scramble. Candidates didn’t use this event to slam and attack other politicians. AIPAC president Lillian Pinkus opened the next morning’s events, during which Netanyahu was scheduled to speak, with an apology for the rhetoric Donald had run off with the night before. Barely swallowing back tears, Pinkus indicated that the candidate had violated the nonpartisan spirit the event tried to retain.

The hubbub around Donald’s comments overshadowed the one line he had been sure would get him into AIPAC’s good graces. “I love the people in the room. I love Israel,” Donald had ended with the day earlier. “My daughter, Ivanka, is about to have a beautiful Jewish baby. In fact, it could be happening right now, which would be very nice as far as I’m concerned.”

A WEEK before the election, in the midst of this all, Ivanka turned in the manuscript for her second book, Women Who Work: Rewriting the Rules for Success, to her publisher. The book was a marketing dream. The confluence of the company she’d built under her own name and the near-constant attention on her speaking about paid family leave and child care under the glare of the political campaign made a book like this the gold standard for the term “brand tie-in.”

Ivanka had spent nearly a decade selling jewelry to women, and then clothes and shoes and handbags and accessories, and later, the notion of a put-together working woman who, if she doesn’t “have it all,” wants to read about the interview-ready outfits and time-saving tips and recipes and workouts and ways to ask for a more flexible work schedule she’ll need to get close to having at least some of it. Her brand website turned into a mecca for that kind of aspirational content, with blog posts about packed lunches and spring looks for the office, most of which let readers shop corresponding looks from the Ivanka Trump brand directly from each post.

She had announced the book publicly in June, in a video message posted on her website. “So last year, I shared some pretty exciting news, that I was pregnant with baby number three, little baby Theodore, and, today, I have some amazing news to share with you as well.” She held up a cutout of a white number 4 affixed to a stick, biting her perfectly berry-stained lips, as if the secret would spill out if she didn’t physically contain it with her teeth. True Ivanka Trump fans, the kinds of women who religiously read her website or leave comments on her Instagram photos praising her children or cataloging her outfits, would recognize this trick. When she announced her pregnancy with Theodore, again, in a video posted on her site, her first child, Arabella, had held a number 1, her second, Joseph, a number 2, and Ivanka herself held a gold number 3 up to her belly.

“Okay, so I’m not pregnant with baby number four,” she said, doubling over her own black-and-white printed shift dress as she chuckled at her own joke. “But I do have another exciting project in the works, and it is also a labor of love. It’s a book.”

The idea had been born two years earlier, when she launched her first #WomenWhoWork initiative. “I was advised by many of the top creative agencies to lose the word, ‘work,’” she wrote in her announcement. “One after another, they suggested that the idea of ‘women and work’ wasn’t aspirational and wouldn’t resonate with a millennial audience. I disagreed. If you ask me, there’s nothing more incredible than a woman who’s in charge of her own destiny, and working daily to make her dreams a reality.

“Over the last two years, my team and I have been laser-focused on making IvankaTrump.com the destination for professional women. Our site is home to inspiring thought leaders, smart content and solution-oriented tips curated for women who work. Today, I’m beyond excited to announce the next evolution of our message, a book.

When she took the idea to Portfolio, her publisher, half a year earlier, it wasn’t a hard sell. At the time, they had no inkling that she would be turning in the pages after more than a year stumping for one of the most polarizing political candidates in American history. None of them believed that Donald would make it beyond a few primaries, certainly not to the general election. To them, he was a fringe candidate who had no shot at winning. They bought her book giving little thought to all of that. They’d market it as a liberal-leaning C-list celebrity version of a career book.

They ran into some bumps even before the prospect of a President Trump dawned on them. Ivanka worked with a writer who the publisher thought was really good, but Ivanka reworked everything herself. She would go through the pages early in the morning, before walking over to Trump Tower or traveling with her father to a campaign stop, typing away on her laptop as she got her hair blown out in her apartment, Jared bringing her coffee as the nannies got the kids ready for school. From the pages they got to read early on, what came through to the publishers was her privileged perspective. For instance, there was no mention of the two women who took care of her own children until the last few pages, in the acknowledgments. After she thanked her agent, the contributors to her book, her sisters-in-law, her mother, her friends, her colleagues, and the two nannies who helped raise her and her brothers, she acknowledged Liza and Xixi, “who are helping me raise my own children,” thanking them “for being part of our extended family and enabling me to do what I do.”

Mostly, the publishers felt that the book was devoid of emotion. They pumped and pumped her to add personal, relatable details about her relationship with her parents, “to make her seem like she had a pulse,” one person involved with the book explained. “Like she was a human and had emotions.” They took every shred of what Ivanka and her writer were willing to give, which wasn’t much. Ivanka was always unfailingly polite and gracious, though, and so intense in her work ethic that they were surprised every time they visited her in her Trump Tower office (she never ventured to their offices; they always came to her).

The real trouble came once Donald had won the nomination. They had to change their entire marketing calculus, because the demographic they had thought the book would appeal to when they bought it, young women in their twenties and thirties living on the coasts, now staunchly opposed Ivanka’s family and everything her father’s campaign stood for. So they had to start making inroads into a whole new audience in the middle of the country, an audience that, frankly, the publisher did not know how to reach or market to.

They recalibrated and, once they had their hands on the manuscript, tried bit by bit to turn it into the best book it could possibly be. Ivanka asked Mika Brzezinski, who had her own “Know Your Value” brand already launched, to review the book. At the time, the Morning Joe host was on okay enough terms with her father, and she helped Ivanka get his attention on women’s-related issues throughout the campaign, to varying degrees of success. Ivanka genuinely wanted to help the cause, she believed; if a few words about her book meant that the future First Daughter would put her efforts there in the White House, then fine.

A week later, Donald won the election, and the entire calculus changed again. Ivanka asked the same favor of Judge Jeanine Pirro, the colorful Fox News host and longtime friend of her father’s. Jeanine’s ex-husband, the businessman and lobbyist Al Pirro, had served as Donald’s power broker in Westchester County in the 1990s, and the three of them would play golf and fly on Trump’s plane down to Mar-a-Lago together. (Donald could never get any work done on those flights down to Palm Beach. “I can’t pay attention,” he’d tell friends traveling with him. “How can you stop looking at her legs? Have you ever seen sexier legs?”). This was before Al Pirro got locked up for conspiracy and tax evasion, a turn of events that went on to haunt Judge Jeanine’s career as district attorney in Westchester and her onetime bid for a seat in the US Senate. But it made it so she could staunchly, spiritedly advocate for her old pal in her televised monologues each Saturday night, and say yes to writing a few kind words about his daughter’s forthcoming book. “Who knows more about success than Ivanka Trump?” she wrote. “Buy it and learn something!”

ON THE day after the election, most of the staff in Portfolio’s offices were zombies. Some cried all day, taking turns wiping their faces in the bathroom. To some, it was a disaster. They were in complete despair about having this book on their hands. But other executives were elated. What they’d bought as a famous-reality-star-meets-buiIder-meets-fashion-executive-meets-mom and wife, how-to was now something entirely different. They had the First Daughter’s book. By accident. And it was scheduled to come out just about one hundred days after her father would take office. “We never thought of canceling,” the person who worked on the book said. “There was the chance for it to be a big hit, and you’d have to be on a suicide mission to cancel the book by a First Daughter, even in this case.”

The looming issue was how to do press around the book. Ivanka had not yet determined what her role would be once she and Jared moved to Washington. She would be some kind of an adviser to her father and his administration. That was never the question. What was at issue was how she would describe her position in marketing the book. She hadn’t intended to officially join the administration until ethics concerns made it nearly impossible for her not to. So how could she go out before she herself answered those questions and have a book publisher try and field the issue, thorny as it was?

The day before Christmas she called the publisher directly, saying she was not sure what her role would be, whether it was going to be official or unofficial, or how she would describe it to people. She wondered if they could move the publication date from March back to May. As it happened, the book was set to go out the following Monday. The wheels were so far in motion that in any other case, it would have been absurd to try to stop them at that point. But this wasn’t another author looking for a favor; it was the incoming First Daughter. They pushed the book back. (Not long after the book was meant to come out, lvanka announced her official role within the administration, as assistant to the president, advising him on issues related to American families, female entrepreneurship, and workforce development. As an official government employee, she could not market the book herself, which meant no interviews, no tour, no readings, no appearances. Before her attorneys and White House lawyers came down on it, every network had been fighting to get her for the book. “The lineup would have made Princess Diana jealous, had she promoted a book,” one publishing executive said. They had to scrap it all, though. And the reviews, one after the next, panned the book, for what it said, for what it left out, and for what people read between the lines. “She didn’t ruin the year,” the executive said, “but it was a bloodbath.”)

IN THE days following the election, foreign leaders and diplomats flooded the switchboard at Trump Tower. There were protocols for how these calls were supposed to be received and made, of course. Many of them were outlined in the dozens and dozens of binders that members of the Trump transition team had put together leading up to November. Few of the transition officials imagined that these binders would actually get put to use. Donald Trump was such a long shot that their work was more of a just-in-case than a these-will-almost-certainly-help-inform-the-next-president. Even fewer imagined that the binders would be picked apart and summarily chucked in the trash once Vice President-elect Pence took over the transition. Ivanka and Jared, along with her siblings and their father and Pence and his allies, had a deep suspicion of any materials put together by anyone connected to Chris Christie. They were also so disengaged from the pre-Election Day transition work that they had their hand in none of the preparation that the professionals-people with real governmental experience, with actual expertise in national security and on the economy and intergovernmental relations and intelligence operations and diplomacy and how the bureaucracy in Washington functions and what all of these areas need to run properly every day, put together. The Trumps, who worked out of their dad’s office in a building bearing their last name, knew nothing about any of that. What they did know was that, deep down, they trusted only themselves. Anything prepared without their input, particularly by people who they believed were loyal to Christie, who was not always a friend of the family well, how could it be used?

Transition officials remember Ivanka coming down to the floor of Trump Tower that housed the transition operations to inspect what was going on. She and Jared seemed paranoid to staffers, worried that officials would be more loyal to Christie than to “the family,” which is how, people on the transition said, they referred to themselves, “Like a mafia movie,” one joked. People gossiped about overhearing “the family” talking about burning the place down and starting from scratch.

“They came into this with chips on their shoulder and grudges that a little seasoning and worldliness tells you that they shouldn’t bring to the party,” one transition official who was fired soon after the election recalled. “They brought it to the party anyway.”

It became abundantly clear once foreign leaders began to call. Transition officials had prepared a call book, laying out which calls they knew were going to come in, how to prepare for them, and which to prioritize, based on the traditional protocol surrounding these early days of the transition. All of it got tossed aside. It is unclear whether this was totally intentional; perhaps the Trump operation, as it existed after the election, was simply too overwhelmed and understaffed to keep up with all of the high-level international issues and decisions and processes it was suddenly faced with. For all its bluster, the Trump Organization is not a Fortune 500 company, with huge teams of people and sophisticated communication systems and tons of seasoned assistants crisscrossing spanning offices, ticking off to-dos and putting out fires. It’s a tiny office stuffed with decades-old magazine covers featuring the boss, and, one floor away, his kids’ offices in a sleeker, more modern area. One longtime executive-assistant-cum-gatekeeper, Rhona Graft, who had worked for the company for thirty years, handled all the calls and messages coming in for her boss.

That left Theresa May, the British prime minister, scrambling for a good twenty-four hours to get through to the incoming US president. Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi got through earlier, as did Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a diplomatic faux pas deeply reflective of the total chaos within Trump Tower and the transition in the days and weeks following the election. Many lamented that if they had just stuck to the materials the early transition officials put together, this snub of a US ally would not have happened. It is impossible to say, though, whether anything would have really been different; it was Donald Trump who had just been elected president, after all. And Donald Trump, people were starting to realize, was not only unpredictable and erratic but also had a penchant for knocking things off kilter even when trying to stick to protocol.

“They all paid for not sticking to what we’d planned,” the transition official said. “Because they looked like bumbling idiots.”

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe was the first leader to make the pilgrimage to Trump Tower, less than ten days after Donald won the election. The Trump team left the pool of reporters on duty that day out of the meeting, as they did with American photographers. No one got the chance to ask questions before or after the sitdown, and no official photos were released, either, apart from a Facebook post on Donald’s page that showed him shoulder-to-shoulder with Abe in the foreground, the gilded moldings and marble and cream silk sofas of the Trump residence behind them. “It was a pleasure to have Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stop by my home and begin a great friendship,” he captioned the shot.

The Japanese government had a different plan. They handed out more revealing photos of their prime minister’s time in Trump Tower to the waiting press. In one, Donald and Abe sat facing each other on that silk cream couch, flanked by two interpreters and a dizzying array of crystal chandeliers and sconces and marble statues and mirrors. Facing them across a gilded coffee table topped with a gold candelabra holding unlit candlesticks, Ivanka Trump sat cross-legged in a beige armchair. Arms crossed at the wrists, she leaned back in her shift dress, black stilettos digging into the cream carpet. In another photo she stood beside Abe and Jared, who wore a slender gray suit jacket buttoned over a slim black tie. In a third shot, the couple stood smiling behind Donald and Abe as they shook hands.

Immediately, alarm bells rang over the ethics and the optics of it all. First, what business did a daughter and son-in-law who had no governmental experience or even, at that point, a plan to join the government, have at that meeting? Everyone still had faith then that the country would be run as a democracy and not a monarchy, that the First Family would never be a royal family. But these photos were enough to shake that faith. Second, the fact that neither Ivanka nor Jared had security clearances raised some eyebrows. Third, perhaps most concerning, Ivanka was still heavily involved with the Trump Organization and with her own eponymous product line, both of which did deals around the world. The image of her having a cozy meeting, in a diplomatic position of power, with a world leader raised concerns. What, if any, boundaries would be drawn between Trump Tower business and foreign relationships within 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? Would the family use its newfound political circumstances as a marketing opportunity?

Ivanka’s brand had already been hit hard for marketing off her campaign appearances. The Ivanka Trump social media accounts had posted buy links for the sleeveless pink Ivanka Trump dress she wore to introduce her father at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, and for the gold bangle bracelet she wore on 60 Minutes, taped alongside her father and siblings two days after the election. Both times, Ivanka made it clear behind the scenes that she herself had nothing to do with the posts. Not only did she know better, but she was so much more focused on the bigger-picture issues she now had a chance to influence. Selling dresses and bracelets wasn’t taking up much space in her brain during that period; it was lower-level Ivanka Trump brand staffers who’d thought up the whole thing. Could she blame them? No way. They were just doing their jobs. Was she going to take the blame? Again, no. She had a very different sort of job.

Concerns continued to mount. Soon afterward, the New York Times reported that while Ivanka sat across from Abe in her childhood apartment, a two-day private viewing of her collection, including the sleeveless pink dress she wore to the convention, was taking place in Tokyo to shore up a licensing deal with a Japanese apparel company. Talks between the Ivanka Trump brand and Sanei International had been under way for years, and did not stem from Ivanka herself. The largest investor of Sanei’s parent company happens to be a bank owned by the Japanese government.

The apparatus around Ivanka spun it as a rookie mistake. “Any meetings she’s in is because it’s always been a family focused environment and she has always been invited by her father to attend every meeting,” one person explained at the time. “But she is very committed to being respectful of different boundaries and it’s clear that it’s going to take some getting used to the changes that need to happen. They all understand that there’s a need to evaluate everything, and in the next couple of weeks, we will have a better sense of how she is going to separate from that.”

BUT THE Trump kids did not separate. In fact, despite the months of preparation carried out by professionals and policy experts, the Trump campaign’s hallmark chaos bled into the postelection process, Donald’s three adult kids made themselves at home on the transition’s executive committee. They took seats at the table in the first official transition meeting in Trump Tower in the days after the election, alongside Trump loyalist and Alabama senator Jeff Sessions, his chief of staff, Rick Dearborn, and a handful of others. So began the exercise of trying to fill top agency positions and, most importantly, decide on Cabinet nominations, a tedious process for anyone, let alone an incoming president with no governmental know-how and little to no attention span.

Eric Trump had worked for his father as a Trump Organization employee for about a decade and as his son for thirty-two years. He knew that Donald could derail the whole thing if he thought he could appoint anyone he wanted, including his friends, who had even less business serving in top agency positions than Donald did. Nothing would ever get done if Donald believed there were an unlimited number of possibilities, or worse, if he thought those roles could go to anyone he thought fit. Eric asked the transition staff to come up with short lists of potential nominees who had a shot at getting confirmed, and present these to his father. “We have to lead him to believe that this is who he has to choose from,” he told people. “He’s got to think those are the only guys.”

This is where some of the tension between Eric and Jared came from. Where Eric saw Donald’s weaknesses, he tried to work around them, filling in for what he lacked and making him stronger. This wasn’t entirely altruistic; his success depended almost entirely on his father’s, after all. But for the most part, he came from a place of trying to make his father better, and a desire to protect him from himself. Eric didn’t feel like that was where Jared came from in his own dealings with Donald. Throughout the campaign, especially, he told people that he felt Jared took advantage of Donald’s weaknesses, as opposed to trying to neutralize them.

They put those tensions aside, though, for the initial postelection transition meeting. They had just started working through some of the first steps when Generals Mike Flynn and Keith Kellogg walked in the room. As far as Christie, who was running the meeting, knew, they had not been invited, and this was not a come-as-you please, anyone-is-welcome affair. “Gentlemen,” he said, “we’re in the middle of a meeting. Can I help you?”

When Ivanka cut in to say that she had invited both of them, Christie demurred. He told Flynn and Kellogg that since he hadn’t known they would be joining, he had not made printouts of the meeting agenda and materials for them. They would have to look on with someone else.

The meeting was getting back on track when Ivanka again interrupted. “General Flynn,” she said, turning to him, “you have been so amazingly loyal to my dad. We all love you. How do you want to serve the president-elect? What job do you want?” A few people around the table caught each other’s eyes. Jeff Sessions rolled his, pulled his glasses off the bridge of his nose, and sank back into his chair.

There were just a few jobs he would be qualified to take, Flynn responded: secretary of state or secretary of defense, or, if not one of those, head of the president’s National Security Council.

Eric jumped in. He asked if Flynn had been retired long enough to head the Pentagon. Flynn said that if he got a waiver from Congress, it would be okay. Eric turned to Sessions and asked how often Congress issued waivers like that to potential cabinet nominees. “Never,” Sessions replied.

Later on in the meeting, Ivanka put the same question she had asked Flynn to Kellogg. He would be happy to take on the role of chief of staff, he said.

“To the president?” Eric asked.

Yes, Kellogg told him.

“Well, is there anything else you would possibly want?”

ON THURSDAY the family sat down for an interview with Leslie Stahl, to air on CBS’s 60 Minutes that Sunday. The interview, taped on the first floor of the triplex in which all the kids, apart from Tiffany, had grown up, and together watched news anchors call states for their father a couple of nights before, would be the first time Donald, Melania, and all five children talked about the changes to come.

Earlier that day, forty-some stories down, on the twentieth floor, Bannon called Christie into his office and fired him from his role as head of the transition on the spot. On one hand, there was a sense that Donald, who out of superstition had not wanted to know anything about the transition, had been sold a bill of goods about where it stood, despite the months of prep done by true experts who’d filled dozens of binders with useful research and delineated next steps. All of that work had been done by people the family considered Christie loyalists, so how could they trust it? They couldn’t, they thought, which explains why they made a show of dumping tens of binders in the trash in front of the very people who’d prepared them. Those who believed this was about settling the long-simmering Kushner-Christie score saw Jared’s overtures during the campaign, and particularly on election night, when he threw his arm around the governor as ruthless. Many saw this as an attempt to replace those who’d aligned with Christie to those who aligned with the candidate and his family, which is why the campaign swiftly appointed Pence as its new leader and Dearborn its executive director.

The move to bring in an incoming vice president to head a transition did have a precedent. George W. Bush had done the same when he was preparing to take office. Christie also happened to be mired in scandal in his own state; two of his former aides had been convicted in the so-called Bridgegate scandal, in which traffic lanes on the George Washington Bridge from Fort Lee, New Jersey, to Manhattan were closed as political retribution against a political foe in New Jersey, a week earlier. Dearborn would also be a natural liaison between Trump Tower and Capitol Hill, and as usual, the Trump kids would be there to oversee it all.

But the story that this was just Washington business as usual, without a hint of personal vengeance, became harder to buy as the days went on. Rich Bagger, who’d taken a leave from his job as Christie’s chief of staff and temporarily moved from New Jersey to DC to serve as the transition’s executive, was waiting for Christie when he came up to the twenty-fifth floor after Bannon canned him. They wanted to keep Bagger on, since he was the guy who knew every in and out. Bagger responded by saying he would quit and finished with a hearty fuck-you.

Bagger still went down to Washington the following day. He had planned a meeting in the DC transition offices in which Bill Palatucci, Christie’s former law partner and the transition’s general counsel, would go over ethics requirements in front of hundreds of staffers. As he made his way to the stage, Bagger got a call from Dearborn, telling him to stop Palatucci in his tracks. He’d forgotten to tell the general counsel that he was about to be fired. They didn’t want Palatucci getting up in front of everyone, and they didn’t want Bagger up there, either. Bagger told them to go scratch, and he and Palatucci ran the meeting anyway.

By the next week Dearborn had also fired Mike Rogers, the former House Intelligence Committee chairman Christie had hired to run the transition’s national security wing. “I saw this all happening and I said to myself, ‘Holy shit, man,” one high-up transition official noted. “We all knew this was coming from the family, and these were guys who had put their hearts and souls into this, and they treated them like they were something stuck on their shoes. It was just an ugly, ugly bloodletting, and they didn’t even have the class to make the call themselves. They had Dearborn do it for them.”

Bannon later admitted that the decision to fire Christie and everyone, in the family’s eyes, associated with him came from Jared. Donald himself insisted that Christie had not in fact been fired, but simply made a member of a bigger team.

The campaign’s statement said it all. “Together this outstanding group of advisors, led by Vice President elect Mike Pence, will build on the initial work done under the leadership of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to help prepare a transformative government ready to lead from day one.” Christie would be moved to the role of vice chairman of the transition effort. Jared, Ivanka, Don Jr., and Eric were among the members of the executive committee, along with Steve Bannon, Ben Carson, Mike Flynn, Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, Rebekah Mercer, Steven Mnuchin, Devin Nunes, Reince Priebus, Anthony Scaramucci, and Peter Thiel.

FIGURING OUT how to untangle everything swallowed up time Jared and Ivanka did not have. Ivanka had to start thinking about whether or how to uproot her kids and move to Washington. As she started to seriously consider the possibility, friends urged them not to. There were two camps of people insisting that she should stay in New York, first, those who said attaching themselves further to such a polarizing political environment would ruin their reputations and their friendships and all the little frills and big comforts they’d known and enjoyed for most of their lives; and second, those who worried about what their businesses would be without them. Don and Ivanka and Eric were the three musketeers within the Trump Organization. People close to the family told Ivanka that if she left and broke up the band, they didn’t know if it would ever come back together again. People close to Jared told him that his association with the White House would place tremendous scrutiny on Kushner Companies and scare off investors who didn’t want their finances run through by the media and government’s fine-tooth combs. There was the added pressure from within the Kushner family, though they fully supported and found great pride in Jared ascending to the West Wing. There were the practical concerns over how the business would run. Jared’s brother Josh had his own company. His sister Nicole was a relative newcomer to the business, and while she had been there, Jared very much ran the show alongside his father. As a felon, Charlie Kushner couldn’t sign anything. As that reality dawned on him, he would often blurt out “I miss Jared” in the middle of meetings, in front of other Kushner family members and business associates.

Ivanka often responded that she wanted to actually affect change on issues she’d been talking about in the private sector for years, only now with a level of efficacy on a global scale that she could never have imagined before. To close friends, she would add that she couldn’t leave her father in Washington alone: “He can’t get down there and look around and have no one around him,” she’d say. “He needs his people there.”

THERE WAS no one on the transition staff close to Jared and Ivanka who could herd them through the process of filling out disclosure forms and security clearance documents. They had dozens upon dozens of businesses and trusts and investments and properties and holdings, all of which they had to somehow untangle themselves from. They had to figure out whether they wanted to fully divest from these, and if so, how to go about that. If they didn’t, they faced a whole other set of issues over putting those assets into a trust controlled by someone else, in many cases, by Jared’s mother Seryl and his siblings Josh and Nicole. Over time, Kushner resigned from 266 corporate positions, and Ivanka stepped back from 292. In the first six months of the administration, the couple revised its financial disclosure form about forty times, a rate his lawyers called normal, and governmental ethics experts called bullshit.

That the couple was worth hundreds of millions of dollars, scattered so widely and in such complex ways, was one factor. Another was a mixture of náiveté and lack of guidance. As one transition official noted, the Trump team was unprepared and woefully understaffed, lacking in the old Washington hands who might have helped Jared and Ivanka avoid the mistakes that would lead them to update their disclosure forms forty times in six months: “If you worked on the Hillary campaign, you’d have Marc Elias explain to you how these things are serious and how you handle them. They had no one. There was no one to say, ‘Here is how you need to handle this.’ There were just no experts around at all.”

The couple’s friends intervened. Joel Klein, the former Murdoch News Corp guy who now works for Jared’s brother’s health insurance start-up Oscar, cautioned him to hire someone who knew their stuff as he waded through the muck of figuring out how he could take a position in the White House, mitigating conflicts of interest and working out how to get around that anti-nepotism law. His recommendation, Jamie Gorelick, had served as deputy attorney general under President Bill Clinton, fund-raised for Hillary, and just gone through the process of vetting potential Cabinet members for Trump’s opponent, a rough outline that would never see the light of day. She herself was seen as a likely pick for attorney general, had Hillary pulled it off.

As it was, Gorelick took Klein at his word that Jared would be a necessary voice in the incoming administration, though she did think twice about accepting him as a client. So did her partners at her law firm, Wilmer Hale, the same firm where now special counsel Robert Mueller worked, and from which hailed a handful of the lawyers he tapped for his investigation into Trump campaign officials, including into some of Jared’s activities. Whispers spread around New York’s big law firms that some Wilmer Hale partners worried that with all the reports of and uncertainty over the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia, having Jared as a client would open them up to scrutiny.

Even with help, there were ethical minefields everywhere. The meeting with Prime Minister Abe had normalized the idea of Ivanka not only sitting in on these sorts of meetings but also hosting meetings in Trump Tower with diplomats and thought leaders on her own. On a frigid day in early January, at midday, Queen Rania of Jordan rode those golden elevators up to meet with Ivanka about global women’s issues and how to best advocate for them in Washington, though at that point Ivanka had not yet confirmed that she was moving to DC. Queen Rania, an honorary chair of the UN’s Girls Education Initiative and founder of an NGO that helps families and children in poverty, had already been doing the kind of work Ivanka had said she wanted to do throughout the campaign. She too benefited from the privileges of inheritance, though by marriage in her case. When House minority leader Nancy Pelosi veered into women’s issues while on the line with Donald, he promptly handed the phone over to his daughter. The two of them could talk it out.

A month earlier, in December, Leonardo DiCaprio sat down privately with Ivanka to talk about climate change, presenting her with a copy of Before the Flood, a ninety minute documentary featuring the Oscar winner traveling across five continents to witness the climate impacts communities there already feel. She invited Al Gore to visit Trump Tower, too, to talk about the environment and sit down with her father, who publicly denied the existence of climate change.

“It’s an important signal that she’s not fucking crazy,” a person close to Ivanka said of the meetings at the time. “She gets it. She’s normal. These aren’t all issues that are going to be part of her advocacy necessarily, but she is interested in learning about them and hearing all sides and to show that.”

The couple met with other Washington insiders, tucking into a booth in the BLT Prime setup in the lobby of the newly minted Trump Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue and meeting with Dina Powell, a veteran of the Bush White House and State Department and a Goldman Sachs insider, who, their mutual friends told the Trump-Kushners, they would be lucky to have as a shepherd. Ivanka had an extended conversation with outgoing First Lady Michelle Obama, the details of which they kept close. Jared continued to take calls and meetings with foreign officials, too. Donald had tapped Jared to be the point person handling incoming requests from the leaders, officials, and diplomats who started reaching out once his campaign gained traction in the primaries, and continued to do so all the way through inauguration and after. It’s not that Jared had any sort of diplomatic prowess or experience. He was both a yes-man who complied with his father-in-law’s requests and a skilled schmoozer used to being slightly out of his depth in dealing with older, far more seasoned heavy hitters. These officials gamely got in good with a naive member of the Trump campaign’s innermost circle who was bound to the candidate and, later, president, by law and a sense of filial duty. It was a long-haul play that they knew would pay off for months, if not years, to come. Throughout the campaign and transition, Jared, who got hundreds of campaign-related emails a day, including dozens from foreign officials looking to establish some sort of relationship with his father-in-Iaw, talked with somewhere in the neighborhood of a hundred foreign officials from about twenty countries, including Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Mexico’s secretary of foreign affairs, Luis Videgaray Caso, and, rather infamously now, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak.

Donald and Kislyak had met more than six months earlier, in April 2016, at a private reception at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington. During a reception before a speech Donald delivered on foreign policy, Jared shook hands with a handful of ambassadors, some of whom mentioned getting together for a lunch that never happened. In the remarks that followed, Donald spoke of “improved relations with Russia” and a desire to “make a deal that’s great” for “America, but also good for Russia.” Kislyak took it all in from the front row.

A week after Donald’s electoral win, the ambassador followed up. His people got in touch with Jared’s people requesting a meeting, which occurred in Trump Tower on the first day of December. Michael Flynn, who would soon serve a short stint as the administration’s national security director before lying to the FBI about his discussions with Russians and, later, flipping in the Mueller investigation and serving as a cooperating witness, joined them. The way Kislyak told it to his superiors, in an email the Washington Post claimed was picked up on intercepts of Russian communications reviewed by US officials, among other topics, Jared and Kislyak allegedly discussed a secret back channel between the Trump transition team and the Kremlin out of Russian diplomatic facilities. The ambassador allegedly said he was caught off guard by the suggestion, which would not only raise security concerns for both countries but also break a US law. The Logan Act, a federal statute that dates back to nearly the beginning of the Republic, prohibits citizens from getting involved in disputes or controversies between the United States and foreign governments without authorization. The act has never been used to successfully prosecute any American citizen, though it does carry a prison sentence of up to three years. Kushner’s meeting took place before Donald took office, and without the Obama administration’s knowledge or approval.

Jared tells the story of the meeting differently. Kislyak, he said in a statement to Congress months after his father-in-law took office, had asked if the transition had a secure way for Russian generals to communicate to the Trump team information related to Syria, in order to help the incoming administration. Jared had then asked if the Russian embassy had a communications channel already in place through which they could have these discussions about Syria. He contends that he never suggested talking about anything else, or that the conversations would be ongoing. The bulk of the meeting, which he said was not particularly memorable, was taken up with exchanging pleasantries and asking who the best point of contact for Vladimir Putin would be.

Jared declined a follow-up meeting that Kislyak requested, but at the ambassador’s urging he sat down with Sergey Gorkov, a Russian banker with direct ties to Putin, in Trump Tower on December 13. The meeting was only twenty-five minutes long-enough time for the man to hand him two gifts, 3 pieces of art and a bag of dirt from the town in Belarus where his grandparents grew up, and to raise suspicions over whether the two had talked about personal, Kushner-related business or public affairs that could impact Russian-American relations.

In one light, the meetings painted Jared as a dewy eyed novice punching above his weight. In another, he looked like a perfectly soft target, just asking to be struck by an enemy that had spent the entire election cycle repeatedly hitting at the heart of American democracy.

The ethics concerns raised by these hundreds of interactions with foreign officials, so serious in their nature that they eventually played a part in an investigation into the Trump campaign and transition, on top of Ivanka’s own meetings, added to the weight placed on the couple. This was on top of the numerous divesting and business decisions they were in the process of making, as well as personal choices over whether or not to uproot their three young children in order to ride this political train down to DC.

Nevertheless, the couple still made time for their family. In December, Jared, Ivanka, their three children, and a babysitter all made their way to the annual Kushner Companies holiday party. That year, at the end of 2016, as the family’s heir apparent and his First Daughter in-waiting weighed taking official jobs that would make them among the most powerful individuals in the world, the Kushners threw their company féte in the basement of Guy Fieri’s American Kitchen & Bar, a five-hundredseat, three floor restaurant beyond caricature. In perhaps one of the most storied restaurant reviews in the history of the Gray Lady, restaurant critic Pete Wells poses a series of questions to American Kitchen & Bar’s celebrity chef and his staff. “Hey, did you try that blue drink, the one that glows like nuclear waste?” he asked. “The watermelon margarita? Any idea why it tastes like some combination of radiator fluid and formaldehyde?” He capped it off with the age-old quandary: “Why did the toasted marshmallow taste like fish?”

None of that mattered much to the Kushners. They owned the building in which Fieri opened his restaurant and, technically, the wall on which he painted his famed “Welcome 2 Flavor Town!” slogan, which meant they got the space for their party on the cheap. They could not purport to have hosted it there because they wanted to dip a toe into “flavor town,” even ironically. The restaurant’s menu stacked itself with items like mac ’n’ cheese in a three-cheese sauce with bacon crumbles, cornmealcrusted shrimp po’boys slathered in Creole mayonnaise, and slow-cooked pork shank dunked in sweet and spicy General Tso’s sauce, a selection of delicacies so flagrantly in violation of every law of kashruth that a rabbi examining the menu might think it a parody. The Kushners, of course, are Orthodox Jews. They don’t eat pork or bacon or shrimp, and they certainly do not mix any of those meats with milk, even within the same meal, let alone in one single dish. To get around that, Kushners brought in their own kosher caterer to handle the food for the party.

A little more than a year later, the restaurant closed its doors; revenues were not enough to keep up with the rent Kushner Companies charged. “From what I understand, it wasn’t the right concept for the space in the long run,” a Kushner spokeswoman said after the restaurant shuttered on New Year’s Eve at the tail end of 2017. “I think he appeals to a more Midwestern aesthetic than a New York one.”

ABOUT A week later, the Kushners took another break. Charlie and Seryl wanted to treat their kids and their kids’ kids to a getaway, as they often did, and so they booked the family a villa at the Four Seasons Resort Huaialai in Hawaii. Jared and Ivanka had gone on vacation a few months earlier, as the guests of Wendi Murdoch aboard David Geffen’s yacht, on which they sailed around Croatia while Donald’s presidential campaign sank and floundered after his dour convention in Cleveland and his attacks on a Muslim Gold Star family who spoke out against him onstage at the Democratic National Convention. But every day felt like a year in the era of Trump. In 2016, they had welcomed their third baby; traveled across the country and back again and back again and again on the campaign trail; spoken onstage at the RNC; inserted themselves into every major hiring and firing decision; put out some media fires and started others, depending on how it served them; weathered self-inflicted crises in their shul; feuded with media executives and former friends; taken meetings with world leaders and Russian diplomats and CEOs of Fortune 100 companies; decided to move to DC; and tried to shed themselves of assets and positions that any of the thousands of people who wanted their heads could claim as a conflict of interest. With the move away from New York on the quickly approaching horizon a move that would take them a few states south of the Kushner, and the brutal cold of an East Coast winter only just beginning, the prospect of uninterrupted time away with their family and apart from Donald, who himself was hunkered down in Mar-a-Lago, sounded nothing short of necessary.

The whole Kushner family queued up in Terminal 5 at JFK Airport in Queens and boarded a commercial JetBlue flight en route to San Francisco, in coach, as they always did when the whole family flew together for these sorts of holiday trips. They had billions of dollars, and they flew private when they needed to, but there were two matriarchs, four children, four spouses, and a mess of grandchildren and their help. Billions of dollars do not grow on trees. Coach would do just fine, at least for this leg of the trip. A private plane was waiting for them in San Francisco to take them on the final leg to Hawaii.

Ivanka, in black jeans, a navy zip-up with gray sleeves, and Puma slip-ons, her hair tousled and spilling out of her loosely tied ponytail, looked more like a normal traveler already exhausted before a cross-country flight with three kids under six in tow than an incoming First Daughter. She certainly looked more earthly than she did in the images of her fully made up and in pencil skirts or shift dresses and stilettos plastered across cable news for months on end and her own social media accounts for years.

Fellow passengers recognized her anyway. Of course they did. She was now one of the most recognizable faces in the United States, if not the world, and in New York, which had overwhelmingly voted against her father a few months earlier, one of the most vilified. Dan Goldstein, a lawyer in the city, stopped her after they boarded the flight. Overcome with the frustration built up throughout the campaign and the concern bubbling over since November, he shouted at her: “You ruined our country and now you are ruining our flight!” People around them froze. The flight crew sputtered. Goldstein continued, “Why is she on our flight? She should be flying private.” Ivanka told flight attendants that she did not want to make this a whole big thing, but JetBlue ushered Goldstein and his husband off the flight. “The decision to remove a customer from a flight is not taken lightly,” the airline said in a statement. “If the crew determines that a customer is causing conflict on the aircraft, the customer will be asked to deplane, especially if the crew feels the situation runs the risk of escalation during flight. In this instance, our team worked to re-accommodate the party on the next available flight.”

They’d brushed it off by the time they arrived in their villa on the 800-acre Four Seasons property, where rooms start in the four figures and the three hundred homes and condos on the adjoining residential community in which they stayed are valued at up to $20 million a pop. There are two championship-quality golf courses with comfort stations stocked with free bourbon and candy bars, a spa with an apothecary peddling herbal remedies made right there before guests’ eyes, and attendants by the pool offering to clean guests’ sunglasses or present them with chilled towels or spritz them with Evian. Billionaires like Ken Griffin, Charles Schwab, and Howard Schultz own homes there, having paid the $200,000 initiation fee and $40,000 annual dues to cover their use of the resort facilities. There, the Kushners were perhaps the poor kids on the tropical block. But they did have something all those other more billionairey billionaires didn’t have: a First Daughter daughter-in-law and a son on the way to the West Wing. Not everyone there, however, saw that as a draw.

The Trump-Kushners commanded enough attention that other guests snapped photos of them reading under the cover of plush tented lounges by the pool. They caught Jared in a swimsuit with a surprising number of abdominal muscles peeking through his wiry frame, carrying their youngest son to the beach. They nabbed Ivanka in leggings and sneakers picking up breakfast from the resort’s café on Saturday morning with her daughter Arabella, though it is unclear how she paid for the meal, given that it was Shabbat. Observers don’t exchange money from sundown on Friday through sundown on Saturday. Writing, like signing a name or room number on a receipt, is also prohibited.

The family did celebrate Hanukkah while on the island. “This year is one of the rare and special occasions where Hanukkah and Christmas coincide. As we light the candles, sending love from our family to yours this holiday season! Merry Christmas & Happy Hanukkah,” she posted on her Instagram account, under a photo of her, Jared, and their children smiling in front of five lit menorah, one for each of them. In Jewish tradition, you add to the mitzvah by lighting multiple menorahs in your home. The idea is that the more candles lit, the more people can see the miracles God makes for those who fight for justice and truth. By the end of those eight nights, just weeks before they officially descended onto Washington, the Trump-Kushners lit more than two hundred candles.

Chapter Four

Born/Married/Divorced/Married/ Divorced/Married/Raised Trump

IF FATE placed Ivana Zelmékové in the little Czechoslovakian town of Zlin with her grandmother, the president of a shoe factory, and her stay-at-home grandfather, or her parents, an engineer and a telephone operator living in a two-story government compound that amounted to nothing more than a concrete box, it was destiny that allowed her to rocket herself out of it and land in a glittering triplex atop Fifth Avenue in Manhattan three decades later.

Ivana was born in 1949, a year after Stalin’s coup.

*

from

BORN TRUMP, Inside America’s First Family

by Emily Jane Fox

get it at Amazon.com

Jacinda Ardern is the very hero the global left needs right now – Van Badham.

“The signal this sends is that this is life in the 21st century.” former NZ Labour Prime Minister Helen Clark.

The achievement here is Ardern’s marriage of the old left economic programme with the new explicitness of identity politics and it resonates because it’s sincere. Failure to bridge these positions will doom all of us.

The future of the left is bright if it looks like Jacinda Ardern and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes.

“The people closest to the pain should be closest to the power and they should pursue power, without shame.” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes.

As social media birth announcements go, Jacinda Ardern’s handheld Facebook Live of herself and her newborn Neve Te Aroha Ardern Gayford is charming.

New Zealand’s prime minister introduces her new baby with radiant sincerity. She thanks her midwife and the hospital staff for their generous professionalism, and New Zealanders for their kindness and gifts. With a quick cutaway, she even jokes with the baby’s father about his “dad jumper”.

But as a political communication, the video is matchless. In an epoch overcast by growing shadows of reenergised rightwing authoritarianism, Ardern’s public hospital nativity offers a luminous symbolic affirmation of her leadership not just of New Zealand, but of the western electoral left.

The leader of the first Labour government in New Zealand for a decade shares the explicit left agenda for investment in health, education and climate action, public housing, social justice. Ardern’s pledge to build “a kind and equitable nation where children thrive, and success is measured not only by the nation’s GDP but by better lives lived by its people” is the ancient standard of our side.

Yet while recent celebrity left leaders have failed to win elections, or even nominations, Ardern gained the leadership of her party seven weeks out from an election, and she won.

She nearly doubled the Labour vote, wrangled herself into office with a complex multiparty coalition, and just passed a social democratic budget. Polls have held. The most recent gives her party and one coalition partner, the Greens, enough votes to govern between them. Her personal approval rating is a thumping 76%.

To understand why is to look beyond policy and into her representation of it. What distinguishes Ardern is her active embrace of what Walter Benjamin referred to as “the time of the now” and the diverse and complex identities of a community that no longer sees itself as by, for and of propertied, straight white men. Doing so shatters a traditionalism that imprisons the left even as much as it inspires today’s right.

Ardern is the first elected world leader to ever go on maternity leave. Of this, former NZ Labour prime minister Helen Clark noted:

“These are the kinds of practical arrangements working women make the world over, the novelty here is that it is a prime minister who is making them. The signal this sends, however, is that this is life in the 21st century.”

But the insight is enhanced by considering theorist Stuart Hall’s old observation that “Politics does not reflect majorities, it constructs them”. Local NZ commentator, Michelle Duff, lauded the events of Ardern’s maternity as a national achievement, writing, “Let’s just take a moment to appreciate that we, as a nation, have pushed the boundaries and created an environment where this can happen.” Clark said for New Zealand, this was merely “evolution”.

Observe, also Ardern who is Pakeha, not Maori meeting the British queen wearing a Kahu huruhuru: a Maori feathered cloak “bestowed on chiefs and dignitaries to convey prestige, respect and power”. It was a demonstration of a status conferred, and not stolen, and a representation of a New Zealand unafraid to show pride in its indigenous past even as it engaged in diplomatic pleasantry with its colonial one.

Little wonder that “the prime minister’s empathy with and interest in the indigenous people of New Zealand (is) improving relations between Pakeha [European] and Maori faster than at any other point in history,” a spokeswoman for Ngati-Haua, of the Tainui federation of tribes, has said.

In this case, the spokeswoman was responding to Ardern’s choice of “Te Aroha” as her newborn’s middle name, which refers both to a mountain where Ardern grew up and a Maori language word for love. “Everybody knows what aroha means,” says Ardern in her baby Video. Even though“everybody” doesn’t, every New Zealander certainly does. Ardern’s grasp of the local from giving birth in a public hospital, to announcing her pregnancy on Instagram is exemplary. The town of Te Aroha is planning a celebration of their namesake baby’s birth; plans are to paint its buildings pink.

The achievement here is Ardern’s marriage of the old left economic programme with the new explicitness of identity politics and it resonates because it’s sincere. Failure to bridge these positions will doom all of us.

Theorist Wendy Brown explained this in her 1999 essay of prophetic relevance to today’s particular political moment. Brown writes of a “left melancholy” as a state of wilful, purist political nostalgia, in which the left “has become more attached to its impossibility than to its potential fruitfulness, a Left that is most at home dwelling not in hopefulness but in its own marginality and failure, a Left that is thus caught in a structure of melancholic attachment to a certain strain of its own dead past.”

It’s hard not to see this melancholy in the celebration of electoral defeats as somehow moral victories, when across the world the present, visible reality for women, indigenous people, the LGBTQIA+ community, refugees and so many others is that electoral outcomes represent life and death stakes.

The alternative proposition is to remember “that the people closest to the pain should be closest to the power” and they should pursue power, without shame. This statement was quoted by the victorious Alexandria Ocasio Cortes, who delivered a shock upset to the established order when she won a Democratic primary in New York this week.

In a party where the top three positions are held by septuagenarians, commentator Dana Milbank saw Ocasio-Cortes’s election not as a disruption to the Democratic trajectory but an event of happy augury. “The emerging electoral majority that already dominates the party and will soon dominate the country,” he observed “is progressive, young, female and nonwhite. It is no accident that Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old Latina, is all four.”

If today’s left is going to stand a chance against an ascendant, muscular right, my hope is that she and other avowed socialists emerging within her electoral generation eschew the stale temptations of left melancholy for energising examples of a visionary left that looks as different to its past as a pregnant woman in a feathered cloak does to a room of suited men.

“Strong men” of the right are now lining up governments from Italy to Turkey to the USA. The times of the now are ones in which we can construct majorities of a diversity they cannot and do not wish to represent.

We can hope the influence of Jacinda Ardern and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes spread, or we can ensure that it does. The stakes for the marginalised remain life and death.

The Sensitivity Gene – Donna Jackson Nakazawa.

Roughly 15 percent of the general population possesses a variant of a behavioral gene called 5-HTTLPR, which regulates the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin influences our ability to rebound from emotional trauma and distress. This Sensitivity Gene exists in three variants. People with the short/short variant tend to be highly sensitive to whatever they meet up with in their day-to-day life.

People with this Sensitivity Gene variant who experience adversity when growing up face the greatest likelihood of suffering from depression in adulthood.

Having supportive, responsive relationships with caring adults as early in life as possible makes a profound difference.

A particular characteristic that is typical of centenarians, is that they manage life stress very well. Even those centenarians who have had really very difficult, and even traumatic lives of extreme adversity, including holocaust survivors, seem to be able to “roll with the punches . . . accept their losses, grieve them and then move on. They bounce back.

Most kids who experience chronic stress and trauma don’t have the tools or maturity to regain their equilibrium. They’re just kids caught up in circumstances over which they have little control, trying to make sense of their own confusion and the emotional chaos of the adults around them. Generally speaking, the higher a child’s Adverse Childhood Experiences Score, the higher her allostatic load, and the more likely she will have a high degree of physical and neural inflammation, and that her body and brain may eventually pay a steep physical cost for that early emotional suffering.

Yet some people who’ve faced a lot of adversity fare better than others. Not every single person with an Adverse Childhood Experience ends up with heart disease, an autoimmune condition, or an anxiety disorder. The correlation is high, but it is not a given.

Most kids who have suffered from toxic stress and adverse experiences do not recover without help. And as adults they are all too often still swimming unaware against the hard and invisible current of those emotional forces from long ago, as they try to make their way toward a happy and fulfilling life. It doesn’t matter what type of Adverse Childhood Experience a child faces: all ten categories of ACEs can cause very similar biophysical changes and inflammation. Yet the effect of childhood stress on body, brain, and mind differs for each of us, but not always for the reasons we think it will.

When stressors are strong, frequent, and prolonged, such as chronic neglect, physical or emotional abuse, living with a caregiver who has an addiction or mental illness, or coming of age in a violent environment, and this happens without adequate adult support, stress becomes toxic.

Having supportive, responsive relationships with caring adults as early in life as possible makes a profound difference.

Brain development from birth to eighteen is shaped by experiences, but our genetic makeup also influences the way our body and mind perceive and respond to stress. Some people are genetically primed to be more sensitive to what’s going on around them in their environment, including any family trauma or hardship they encounter when very young. Others aren’t as deeply affected by early adversity; things don’t hit them quite so hard.

One of the reasons for this difference exists deep within our genetic code.

The Sensitivity Hypothesis explains how and why some people are predisposed to stress reactivity. Roughly 15 percent of the general population possesses a variant of a behavioral gene called 5HTTLPR, which regulates the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin influences our ability to rebound from emotional trauma and distress.

This Sensitivity Gene exists in three variants. People with the short/short variant tend to be highly sensitive to whatever they meet up with in their day-to-day life. When something stressful happens, they may be less able to recover quickly, but they’re also more deeply affected by positive influences; when they receive the right kind of nurturance, they do better in life. A mentor who has faith in them or recognizes that they have a gift or skill will profoundly shape them for the better. They soak in the good.

5-HTTLPR, the seratonin transporter.

The short/long expression of the serotonin gene doesn’t seem to affect people either way very much. However, the long/long expression of this gene is associated with having a greater ability to bounce back from adversity and more easily regain one’s footing after stressful events. When bad things happen, those with the long/long variant don’t fret or feel it quite so much. What might overwhelm other people in life is the proverbial water off the duck’s back. So, they don’t end up carrying around such a heavy allostatic load as they go forward in life.

But what’s most intriguing about the Sensitivity Hypothesis gene is that it plays a far more profound role in the more vulnerable years of childhood, when the brain is still developing, than it does in how affected we are by stress once we become adults.

People with this Sensitivity Gene variant who experience adversity when growing up face the greatest likelihood of suffering from depression in adulthood.

The reason is this; the Sensitivity Gene influences the developing stress response in such a way that, when “sensitive kids” are faced with adversity, their HPA stress axis pumps out even more stress hormones. They get a double dose of inflammatory drip from early on, and for a very long time.

In one fascinating study researchers asked several groups of adolescents to perform tasks in a lab setting while receiving ambiguous or negative feedback from observers. One group of teens possessed the short form of the Sensitivity Gene, and had also experienced some type of childhood adversity before the age of six; a second group of teens had the Sensitivity Gene, but hadn’t experienced early adversity. Both groups performed tasks such as discriminating between two images on a computer screen that matched or didn’t match or playing memory games. They couldn’t tell if researchers thought they were doing a good job or not because researchers were intentionally giving them mixed feedback.

The adolescents who carried the Sensitivity Gene and had faced childhood adversity showed more anxiety and made more mistakes while performing the tasks. They assumed that the sometimes discouraging, nonverbal feedback they were getting from evaluators meant they’d done something wrong. These same kids also showed signs of cognitive and emotional difficulties that are associated with later anxiety and depression.

Kids with the Sensitivity Gene who didn’t experience childhood adversity didn’t show the same reactivity to ambiguous feedback or have trouble regulating emotions. Because they hadn’t experienced Adverse Childhood Experiences, the Sensitivity Gene hadn’t kicked in.

There are other gene variants that contribute to children’s biophysical vulnerability to early stress. Duke researchers found that kids from high-adversity backgrounds who also carried a common gene variant, NR3C1, which, like 5-HTTLPR, makes some children more sensitive to their environment, were much more likely to develop serious problems as adults. This NR3C1 gene, or what we might call the Stress Vulnerability Gene, influences the body’s output of cortisol during stress. Seventy-five percent of kids with the stress-reactive variant of this gene developed psychological challenges or addictive behaviors by age twenty-five.

However, when kids with this Stress Vulnerability Gene also received intervention through programs that offered them support, only 18 percent developed psychological disorders and addictions as adults. In other words, the children with the vulnerability gene variant were highly susceptible to stress, but they were also very remarkably responsive to adult help, it made all the difference in their lives.

If you have the Sensitivity Gene or the Stress Vulnerability Gene and faced your share of adverse experiences in childhood, you may find that you are emotionally wired with a hair-trigger stress response. The trajectory of your life may be fraught with more difficulty. For instance, you may be more likely to feel anxiety and fear when a car veers in front of you or someone criticizes your idea at the office or something goes bump in the night. You may have a low-simmering, interior sense that you are not safe. You may pick up on other people’s discomfort and anxieties and absorb their stress without even realizing how much it is affecting you and your biology.

Georgia, raised by her cold, controlling mother and a dad with a temper, recalls that she picked up on tension in her home “before arguments even happened,” but her sisters were “more oblivious, and a lot tougher.” They didn’t seem to have the emotional antennae Georgia did. As her sisters neared adolescence, they stood up to her mother and started to “give it right back,” Georgia says. “They weren’t afraid, sometimes they even went head to head with my mom; they were sassy and exerted their power.”

By then, Georgia had already been dubbed by her family as “too sensitive” or “the sensitive one.” Labeling her in this way allowed her parents to pretend the tensions in their family were normal, that Georgia was the problem.

“I took in every negative vibe in the family. Eventually, to protect myself, I learned to shut myself down, even if I couldn’t shut down my sensors,” Georgia says. “By the time I was ten, I’d learned to do what I was told; I made a daily, conscious effort to be as invisible as a human being could possibly be.”

When Georgia was thirteen, her mom went to a therapist. Her husband was drinking heavily, and sometimes driving while drunk. Georgia says, “My mother had had a very abusive mother herself, and she’d lost her father whom she’d adored. She was well educated and more or less stuck at home with three small girls. My father told her, ‘I’m not paying for therapy, no wife of mine is going to a shrink.’ ”

Her mom took on a part-time job at a local library to pay for her therapy. She didn’t change very much toward Georgia, but, looking back, Georgia appreciates how hard it must have been for her mother to take those steps.

Georgia threw herself into her schoolwork. “I repressed everything except for my intellect.” It paid off, her desire to succeed in her own right might even have saved her life. When she was eighteen, Georgia went off to Columbia, where she eventually got her PhD.

Today, at age forty-nine, Georgia wonders a lot “about the multigenerational piece,” she says. “My mother’s mother was abandoned when she was a baby; my grandmother was very damaged. She was abusive to my mother, who, in turn, was a deeply injured person. The same was true on my father’s side, he’d had no real parents who looked out for him. My father’s father was depressed and an alcoholic. So was my father.” Georgia pauses. “It’s as if all those generations of pain landed on my back.”

“I have a very sensitive system that picks up on what other people can’t always sense,” she says. “Being able to sense and see what was going on beyond the superficial helped to protect me in a way, I knew when to retreat. But I was also a pain sponge. l absorbed my father’s pain, my mother’s pain, the pain of their damaged marriage.”

As an adult, in addition to degenerative disc disease, depression, and fibromyalgia, Georgia has also faced trouble in her relationships. She married in her early twenties, hoping to rewrite her own family’s unhappy story by creating a more loving and supportive home of her own, a safe haven.

But the marriage didn’t last. Georgia found it difficult to communicate and voice her feelings and needs honestly, as did her husband. Over time, lack of communication broke down their relationship. After she divorced, Georgia came to have this “strong inner vision” that there had to be a very different way of loving and living than what my parents had demonstrated for me. If I couldn’t find that road, I didn’t know if life was really worth it. I knew I either had to get on a journey toward physical and emotional healing or fold it all up and pack it in.”

Despite everything Georgia knows about her childhood, she finds it “daunting” to answer yes to several ACE questions but relieved to know that she “wasn’t ‘too sensitive’ all those years,” after all.

Georgia’s descriptions of her childhood illustrate the Sensitivity Hypothesis and the Vulnerability Hypothesis at work: some children see more, perceive more, know more, feel more. These are the same children who may carry even deeper psychic wounds from their adversity-laden childhood, and who may grow up to face more pressing physical and emotional symptoms in the future. This doesn’t mean that what happened was less traumatic than they think it was; it means that they felt the pain of it more deeply.

Still, the Sensitivity Gene brings with it distinct neurobiological pluses. The same plasticity of the brain that makes sensitive children highly reactive to stress also makes them more intuitive and receptive, more easily shaped by what is good and healthy in their environment, too: the support they’re shown, the loving relationships they experience, the caring mentor who sees something special in them and takes them under his or her wing. Even later efforts in adulthood to reshape and rehabilitate their own brains may bring them greater healing results.

When “sensitive” children experience a supportive, nurturing childhood, they actually show the fewest signs of depression in later life, even compared to those with the long/long version of the gene. They become even more likely than other people to develop positive and beneficial psychological characteristics, and to thrive. Even after suffering as children, their adult behaviors are still malleable, which translates into a profound ability to change after they become adults, despite their history.

Regardless of what happened when you were young, regardless of your sensitivity, if you set out to rehabilitate your brain and downshift your stress reactivity, you have a very good chance of doing so.

Georgia is sensitive; her intuitive makeup made her childhood more painful; but that same inner, creative sensitivity is what gave Georgia her “strong inner vision” that life could be different. And that inner vision would later propel Georgia on a transformative healing journey as an adult.

The Sensitivity Gene can make you more adept at learning how to deal with life’s inevitable suffering, and help you to learn to turn the fallout of childhood adversity into grist for remarkable self-growth.


from

Childhood Disrupted. How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology, and How You Can Heal

by Donna Jackson Nakazawa

get it at Amazon.com

‘You deserve what you get?’. Modern Monetary Theory and Practice – William Mitchell, L. Randall Wray and Martin Watts.

“There is no such thing as society” Margaret Thatcher.

Neoliberal Economics: ‘You have no one to blame for your meagre allocation but yourself’. Downsizing government and especially reducing the social safety net is consistent with the view that government only needs to ‘get the incentives right’.

Since human survival requires cooperation, selfishness would actually be irrational as it would reduce one’s chances of survival. In all known societies, elaborate rituals and traditions are designed to promote cooperation and even sacrifice for the common good.

Human behaviour is surprisingly malleable, and complexly influenced by custom and tradition. There is nothing natural about humans having ‘unlimited‘ wants. While it is true that modern advertising operates to continually expand our desires. this can be countered through education.

It is ironic that neoclassical economics starts from the presumption that resources are scarce, when the obvious empirical fact is that labour is unemployed. Any theory that begins with the presumption that labour is always fully employed, and hence scarce, is ignoring a glaring inconsistency.

Heterodox Definition of Economics: the study of social creation and social distribution of society’s resources.

Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) is distinguished from other approaches to macroeconomics because it places the monetary arrangements at the centre of the analysis.

The reality is that currency issuing governments such as those of Australia, Britain, Japan and the US can never run out of money. These governments always have the capacity to spend in their own currencies.

Most of the analysis appearing in macroeconomics textbooks, which filters into the public debate and underpins the cult of austerity, is derived from ‘gold standard’ logic and does not apply to modern fiat monetary systems. Economic policy ideas that dominate the current debate are artefacts from the old system, which was abandoned in 1971.

MMT: The sum of the sectoral balances nets to zero when we consider the government, private, domestic and external sectors.

Whereas households have to save (spend less than they earn) to spend more in the future, governments can purchase whatever they like, as long as there are goods and services for sale in the currency they issue.

Our own personal budget experience generates no knowledge relevant to consideration of government matters.

Chapter 1. Introduction

What is Economics? Two Views

US President Harry Truman is said to have sought a one armed economist because he was so frustrated by the propensity of economists to provide policy advice framed as ‘Well. on the one hand‘ X. but on the other hand. Y’, where ‘Y’ typically would be the precise opposite policy path to ‘X’.

The story is. of course. funny but it does bring up a problem that is ubiquitous to all social sciences. Even if we know the result we would like to achieve (say, smarter and happier kids), we do not know with certainty which policy choices would produce the desired outcome. Since the main topic of the social sciences, human behaviour, is complex, we often do not understand its causes, or even its nature, and much less do we know how to influence it in a desired manner. Economics is as difficult as the other social sciences, such as psychology and political science, as it concerns human behaviour in a social sphere that we designate as ‘the economy‘, which itself is hard to define and to delineate from other spheres of social interaction.

Unfortunately, economics is sometimes equated to something like the ‘study of business decision making’, or even relegated to a narrow sub discipline as a ‘decision science’, in a highly artificial hypothesised world of hyper rational automatons that maximise pleasure and avoid pain.

Some even see economics as just a branch of mathematics, a view fuelled in part by the heavy use of mathematics and models in much of the discipline.

This textbook will take a broader perspective of the economics discipline, including it within the social sciences. While we do think it is useful to carve off ‘the economy’ from the rest of social life, and to apply ‘economics’ to the study of that area of life, we recognise that the division is necessarily arbitrary. In truth, there is no completely separate sphere of ‘economic life’, so economics is linked to, and incorporates findings from, the other social science disciplines.

Further, we want to stress that there is no single ‘right’ way to do economics. In this textbook we will use a variety of methods and approaches to build our understanding of ‘the economy’. We will occasionally bring in research and methods from other disciplines. We will use some mathematics and modelling As we believe that economic history as well as history of economic thought helps us to understand our economy today, we will look back in time, both in terms of economic events, but also to examine the insights of the great thinkers of the past.

In the rest of this section we will briefly outline the two main approaches to economics taken by those thinkers, as well as by today‘s economists. It is always risky to pigeon hole individuals and their theories into categories. Just as a politician in a particular political party (say, Labor in Australia. or the Republican Party in America) will hold many views shared by most members of that party, they will likely also hold some views more consistent with those of a rival party. This is true of economists, too. Still. it is useful to identify two approaches to economics that have dominated much of the debate over the past two centuries.

Recalling the story about President Truman’s frustration, we can think of the ‘two hands’ of economics as the orthodox, or neoclassical approach and the Heterodox or Keynesian/Institutionalist/Marxist approach. Let us examine each in turn, while recognising that we must generalise.

Orthodox, Neoclassical approach

‘You deserve what you get’

In the neoclassical approach, there is a presumed, natural human nature: individuals maximise pleasure and avoid pain. Pleasure is defined as ‘utility’, so individuals pursue utility maximising behaviour, avoiding the ‘disutility’ of pain. Further, rational individuals are self interested seeking to maximise their own utility, and they do not receive either utility or disutility from the experiences of others.

Neoclassical economics presumes individuals are ‘rational’, meaning they maximise utility, given constraints. If there were no constraints, individuals would maximise with infinite utility, but they are constrained by their resources that they have at their disposal, which are referred to as ‘individual resource endowments’. Mutually beneficial exchange redistributes resources according to preferences, increasing the utility of both parties to the trade.

In the hypothesised free market, exchanges take place at competitively determined relative prices. (Relative prices are ratios; for example: 1 deer, 3 beavers, 6 rabbits, 2 bushels of wheat, 10 hours of labour services.) Participants in markets take relative prices as signals. Relative scarcity will cause the price to rise, inducing suppliers to produce more of a particular traded commodity, and buyers to demand less. For example. if the supply of students trained in economics is insufficient to meet the demand for economists. the relative wage of economists to (say) that of historians, rises. This signals to students that they ought to switch from the study of history to the study of economics.

At the same time. employers try to find close but cheaper substitutes, say, political science students. As the supply of economists increases, the relative wage advantage for students trained in economics falls. Of course, other factors enter into decisions, but the important point is that relative prices function as signals to both suppliers (economics students) and demanders (employers of economists).

Equilibrium is defined as the set of relative prices that ‘clear’ markets; a ‘general equilibrium’ is a complete set of prices to clear all markets. One interpretation of Adam Smith’s famous ‘invisible hand” analogy is that by producing market clearing prices, the market provides the signals that guide individuals to maximise their utility while also providing the social or public good of ensuring that demand and supply are equilibrate. The hand is “invisible”, guiding individuals and the economy as a whole toward equilibrium, with no need of an authority. For that reason, there is little need for government management of the economy.

Certainly government has some role to play in setting and enforcing rules, in providing national security, and (perhaps) for providing a social safety net. But according to this interpretation of Smith, there is no need for the govemment to direct individuals to serve the public interest because by reacting to price signals and pursuing their own interests, individuals actually act in the public interest.

There is one more important conclusion reached by neoclassical economics: ‘you deserve what you get”. If we all come to the free market to make mutually beneficial exchanges, all seeking to maximise our own individual utility subject to our resource constraints, then the equilibrium allocation is in an important sense ‘fair’. That does not mean that the allocation is equal, some will have more (and achieve greater utility) and others will have less. However, that is because some start with greater endowments (of resources, ability, and drive).

Technically, the idea is that one receives an allocation of resources based on one’s own contribution to the market. If your final allocation is low, it is because you did not bring enough to market: maybe you were born with few resources, you made a constrained choice to obtain little education, and you prefer leisure over work. In other words, you have no one to blame for your meagre allocation but yourself.

To be sure, neoclassical economics also allows for bad luck, congenital disabilities, and so on. Hence, there is a role for social policy to get involved in altering the allocation in order to protect the poorest and least advantaged. However, generally speaking, allocations ought to be left to the market because it will reward each participant according to productive contributions to the market, a dimension of fairness.

In recent years, the neoclassical approach to economics has been invoked in support of the conservative backlash against post war economic and social reforms in Western nations (this is generally called neoliberal outside the USA or neoconservative within the USA). This ‘anti government” movement is closely associated with the terms in office of President Ronald Reagan in the USA and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the UK. When running for President in 1980, President Reagan promised to “get the government off the backs of the people”; Prime Minister Thatcher was famous for arguing that there is no such thing as society, reflecting the individualistic framework shared by neoclassical economics

Ronald Reagan and Maggie Thatcher

Downsizing government and especially reducing the social safety net is consistent with the view that government only needs to ‘get the incentives right’, and then the ‘free market’ would maximise individual welfare while the invisible hand will ensure that signals coming from markets guide individuals to do what is best for the economy as a whole.

While the neoliberal/neoconservative policies are most closely associated with conservative political parties, even the moderate parties continued the policies throughout the 1990s and 2000s. For example. President Clinton (a Democrat) echoed President Reagan’s distaste for social welfare programs when he promised to “end welfare as we know it” in his 1992 election campaign, eliminating the biggest USA anti poverty program (Aid to Families with Dependent Children) and replacing it with a term limited program that tries to force aid recipients to work for their benefits (‘workfare’ rather than ‘welfare’).

Outside the USA the more left wing parties such as the Labour Party in the UK pursued similar strategies (such as ‘work for the dole‘). Neoclassical economic theory provided a strong justification for these economic and social ‘reforms’ as policy would rely more heavily on ‘market outcomes’ while reducing ‘govemment interference” into the workings of the ‘invisible hand’.

Economics, ‘The Dismal Science’: While resources are scarce, our wants are unlimited.

Finally, let us tum to the neoclassical definition of economics, as it provides a very nice summary of the approach taken.

Neoclassical Definition of Economics: The study of the allocation of scarce resources among unlimited wants.

This is often framed as ‘the economic problem”: while resources are scarce, our wants are unlimited. The ‘problem‘ is that we cannot ever satisfy our wants. Many call economics ‘the dismal science’, which comes from this statement of ‘the problem’. While we all try to ‘maximise utility’, resource constraints prevent us from ever achieving maximal bliss.

Another common statement attributed to economists is that ‘there‘s no such thing as a free lunch”, which also derives from the definition. Since resources are scarce, there is always a trade off: if we move resources from one use to another. we necessarily reduce enjoyment in the first use in favour of enjoyment in the second. For example, if we want to have more ‘guns’, we must have less ‘butter’. Or if we want to improve the standard of living enjoyed by ‘Bob’, we must reduce the living standard of ‘Jill”.

Strictly speaking. this would be true only at full employment of all resources However. with the invisible hand guiding the allocation of resources, flexible relative prices ensure that all scarce resources are fully employed. The idea is that prices will always fall until supply equals demand so that no resource is left idle.

Note also that the trade off might only be temporary. For example, if we move resources out of the production of consumption goods and into the production of investment goods that raise productive capacity, then in the future we can have more consumer goods. Through economic growth we can increase the quantity of resources so that both ‘Bob‘ and ‘Jill‘ can have more. This does not violate the admonition that there is no free lunch, however. If we axe to have more production in the future, we need to sacrifice some consumption today, we suffer today with lower consumption, but we are willing to endure the ‘pain’ on the promise that in the future we can enjoy more consumption.

We will have much more to say about the neoclassical approach later in the text. However, it is time to move on to the second approach to economics.

Heterodox, Keynesian, Institutionalist, Marxist approach

Since human survival requires cooperation, selfishness would actually be irrational as it would reduce one’s chances of survival.

There is a second, long, tradition in economics that adopts a quite different framework. Unfortunately, there is no strong consensus about what to call it. Sometimes it is called ‘nonorthodox‘, which appears to define it in opposition to ‘orthodox’ or neoclassical economies. In recent years, many of those working in this tradition have settled on the term ‘heterodox’, but that, too, is usually defined as ‘not in agreement with accepted beliefs”. Yet at one time, those views now associated with ‘heterodox‘ economics were dominant, while the ‘orthodox’ views were considered by most economists as ‘unorthodox’ in the sense that they were not in agreement with the beliefs held by most economists!

Further, unlike neoclassical theory. which is substantially accepted by all orthodox theorists, ‘heterodoxy’ is made up of a number of well established and coherent economic schools of thought. While these share a common approach, they also deviate from one another in important ways.

The three most imponant of these schools of thought are the Marxist (following the work of Karl Marx), the Institutionalist (following the work of Thorstein Veblen), and the Keynesian (followers of John Maynard Keynes).

What are we to do? In spite of the objections we raised, we will conform to the convention and call this second approach the heterodox or Keynesian/Institutionalist/Marxist approach.

Let us examine the shared framework adopted.

First, according to this approach there is no ‘natural’ human behaviour; rather, it is shaped by institutions, culture, and society. There is nothing ‘natural’ about self interested (or, better, ‘selfish’) behaviour, nor would such behaviour be ‘rational‘ in the neoclassical sense. Humans are social animals and in many cultures, selfish behaviour is punished and selfish individuals are ostracised. Since human survival requires cooperation, selfishness would actually be irrational as it would reduce one’s chances of survival. In any event, in all known societies, elaborate rituals and traditions are designed to promote cooperation and even sacrifice for the common good.

Human behaviour varies significantly across societies, and the economic system is one factor that helps to determine appropriate behaviour within any particular society. Selfinterested behaviour is more acceptable in some societies than in others. It is not a coincidence that neoclassical economic theory was developed largely in Western capitalist societies, and particularly in England. The ‘rational’ behaviour attributed by neoclassical economists to all humans actually comes reasonably close as a description of the behaviour of early British capitalists. In the social environment in which they operated, pursuit of their own self interest without regard to the welfare of others (especially that of their employees), may have increased their probability of success as capitalists. Further, they operated in a hostile political climate in which the Crown and their feudal lord cronies wanted to increase their own share of the nation’s rather feeble output.

Government ‘intervention’ was almost always a bad thing, from the perspective of the first capitalists because government operated substantially in the interest of the Crown and the feudal lords.

We will not go into economic history now. What we wish to emphasise is that human behaviour is surprisingly malleable and complexly influenced by custom and tradition.

Further, most decisions are not ‘rational‘ for another reason: the future is uncertain, and even the present and past are uncertain in the sense that we do not fully understand what happened and what is now happening. Clearly, we do not know the future, and we know that we do not. Hence, we cannot know for cenain that any action we take is truly ‘utility maximising’. Should I buy the Renault or the Mazda? Once the decision is made and with the passage of time, I might have a better idea of the best choice, but it is probable that even a decade down the road I will not know which would have been best. Obviously, that choice is relatively unimportant and even simple compared to most economic choices one must make. In truth, we almost never know whether we are ‘maximising’ utility, indeed even with hindsight we often cannot tell if we made the right decision.

According to the heterodox approach, most decisions are not ‘rational’ in the neoclassical sense of the term. Decisions and behaviour depend on a range of other factors, including uncertainty, power, discrimination. prejudice, and segregation. Optiuns available depend on status, social class, race, religion, and gender, for example. These ‘noneconomic’ factors heavily influence and even constrain our choices.

Heterodoxy rejects the notion that economic outcomes are arbitrated by an impersonal market that only seeks to equilibrate ‘demand and supply‘. Actually, market prices are largely administered by firms with market power that allows them to discriminate. Wages are set not to ‘clear‘ the labour market, but rather reflect the outcome of conflicted bargaining processes.

Capitalism is a system defined by class conflict. In general, workers want to earn as much as they can for the effort they expend, while bosses want workers to produce as much as they can but pay them as little as possible. And, as will be discussed later, unemployment cannot be eliminated through wage reductions that eliminate relative excess labour supply; indeed wage reductions can actually reduce the demand for labour and thus increase unemployment.

More generally, wages and other prices are not simply signals of the invisible hand. but rather determine incomes and thus influence business sales and decisions going forward. For that reason, price and wage determination are not usually left to the invisible hand of the market.

Heterodoxy holds a different view of the so called ‘economic problem” of scarce resources and unlimited wants. Wants are largely socially created. and there is nothing natural about humans having ‘unlimited‘ wants. While it is true that modern advertising operates to continually expand our desires. this can be countered through education.

Further, resources are also largely socially created. While it is true that some natural resources have a limited supply, innovations continually produce substitutes. For example. Western societies faced their first major energy crisis in the l9th century when whalers had significantly reduced the number of whales, the source of whale oil used for lighting and other purposes. However, the production of petroleum and then electricity quickly replaced whale oil.

Moreover. the most important resource in any economy is labour. Ironically, in capitalist economies labour is virtually always in excess supply that is, many workers are left unemployed. It is ironic that neoclassical economics starts from the presumption that resources are scarce, when the obvious empirical fact is that labour is unemployed. Any theory that begins with the presumption that labour is always fully employed, and hence scarce, is ignoring a glaring inconsistency.

Let us look at the heterodox definition of economics.

Heterodox Definition of Economics: the study of social creation and social distribution of society’s resources.

Note that unlike the orthodox definition. this one focuses on the creation of resources. Further, most of that creation is social, rather than individual: people work together to produce society’s resources. Distribution, too, is socially determined, rather than determined by a technical relation (one‘s contribution to the production process). For example, labour unions engage in collective bargaining with their employers, who also band together to keep wages low.

The political process is also important in determining distribution; not only does government directly provide income to large segments of society, but it also puts in place minimum wages, benefits, and working conditions that must be met by employers Government is also a creator of resources; it is not just a user of them. It organises and funds innovative research and development (often in its own labs) that is then used to create resources (frequently by private firms). It also purchases directly from firms, encouraging them to increase hiring and output.

Not only do these government activities increase production, but they also affect distribution. This is well understood by voters and their representatives in government as policy creates winners and losers and not usually in a zero sum manner: some policies can create winners while others might create more losers.

Power, discrimination, collusion, and cooperation all play a role in determining ‘who gets what’. The point is that society does not have to let ‘the market’ decide that women should be paid less than men, for example, or that those with less education should remain jobless and thus poor.

Economics, like all social sciences. is concerned with a society that is complex and continually undergoing change. Since economists study human behaviour in the economic sphere, their task is very difficult. Whatever humans do. they could have done something different. Humans have some degree of free will, and their behaviour is largely based on what they think they ought to do. That in turn depends on their expectations of an unknowable future they do not know precisely what the outcome of their actions will be, and they do not know what others will do.

Indeed. humans do not know exactly what happened in the past. nor do they fully understand what is happening today. They must interpret the environment in which they live. and realise that they cannot fully understand it. They can never know if they have truly ‘maximised’ their pleasure. They make plans in conditions of existential uncertainty, and do the best they can do given their circumstances. Their actions are almost always taken with consideration given to the impacts on others, humans are above all social animals and that is why economics must be a branch of the social sciences.

What do economists do?

Like sociologists and political scientists economists are trying to understand particular aspects of human behaviour, for example decisions about levels and patterns of spending, choices about enrolment in post school education and types of employment to pursue, which we argue above, are influenced by institutions; culture; and society; in addition to economic variables. such as income: the prices of goods: and prospective wage rates for different occupations.

In microeconomics our focus is the behaviour of individual consumers and firms. whereas in macroeconomics the focus is the aggregate impacts of these decisions on outcomes. including total output and employment and the rate of inflation. We elaborate on these definitions of microeconomics and macroeconomics below.

In trying to understand particular forms of economic behaviour we need to develop theories that require us to decide on those factors that we think influence the particular economic decisions of interest. In other words, we need to make simplifying assumptions (engage in abstraction). which means we necessarily ignore those factors that we consider to be irrelevant. Otherwise we are trying to replicate the complex reality, as we see it, and we are engaging in description rather than theorising. In the development of theory, concepts are formulated, which can be viewed as the building blocks of theory. A model can be viewed as the formalisation of a theory (see below). To understand any theory (model). it is important that students comprehend the underlying concepts.

Social scientists seek to confront their abstract theoretical models, expressed in the form of conjectures about real world behaviour, with the empirical data that the real world provides. For example. we might form the conjecture that if disposable income rises, household consumption will rise. We would then collect the relevant data for disposable income and household consumption and any other information we thought might bear on the relationship and use various statistical tools (for example, regression analysis) to enumerate the relationship between disposable income and household consumption to see whether our conjecture was data consistent.

In engaging in this sort of exercise, the responsible social scientist is not seeking to establish whether the theoretical model is true, for that is an impossible task, given there is no way of knowing what the truth is anyway. Instead, we seek to develop theories or conjectures that provide the best correspondence with the empirical world we live in. This means our current, accepted body of knowledge comprises theories and conjectures that explain the real world data in the most comprehensive way when compared to the competing theories.

Further, we can rarely refute a theory. As President Truman complained, there are two or more sides to the most important economic questions, so there are competing theoretical approaches yielding different conclusions. Even when a researcher resorts to the analysis of relevant data, (which often entails the use of econometrics), they can never refute a theory with 100 per cent confidence. Often the acceptance of a theory is driven by ideology and politics, rather than a balanced assessment of the competing theories and associated evidence.

Implications for research and policy

Many students, like President Truman. find the inability of economists to come up with definitive answers to economic questions to be rather frustrating. Here it is important to emphasise that, like physical sciences and other social sciences, economics is a contested discipline, as is illustrated by our brief discussion of the two schools of thought. Students will be exposed to some major contemporary debates in macroeconomics later in this textbook, but below we outline a long standing debate in developed economies, such as the UK, USA and Australia, about the impact of an increase in the minimum wage on unemployment.

If there are longstanding debates in economics (and other disciplines), which appear to be unresolved, how can there be progress in our understanding of economic phenomena? This is an important question because decisions made by macroeconomic policymakers have profound effects on the welfare of the population in terms of for example, employment opportunities and wages. Thomas Kuhn developed a way of understanding how progress is made in the social and physical sciences.

What is Macroeconomics?

The study of employment, output and inflation.

In macroeconomics we study the aggregate outcomes of economic behaviour. The word ‘macro’ is derived from the Greek word ‘makro’, which means large and so we take an economy wide perspective.

Macroeconomics is not concerned with analysing how each individual person, household or business firm behaves or what they produce or earn that is the terrain of the other major branch of economic analysis, microeconomics. Macroeconomics focuses on a selected few outcomes at the aggregate level and is rightly considered to be the study of employment, output and inflation in an international context. A coherent macroeconomic theory will provide consistent insights into how each of these aggregates is determined and change.

In this regard, there are some key macroeconomic questions that we seek to explore:

1. What factors determine the flow of total output produced in the economy over a given period and its growth over time?

2. What factors determine total employment and why does mass unemployment occur?

3. What factors determine the evolution of prices in the economy (inflation)?

4. How does the domestic economy interact with the rest of the world and what are the implications of that interaction?

A central idea in economics, whether it is microeconomics or macroeconomics, is efficiency getting the best out of what you have available. The concept is extremely loaded and is the focus of many disputes, some more arcane than others. But there is a general consensus among economists that at the macroeconomic level, the ‘efftciency frontier’ (which defines the best outcome achievable from an array of possible outcomes) is normally summarised in terms of full employment. The hot debate that has occupied economists for years is the exact meaning of the term full employment.

We will consider that issue in full in Chapters 11 and 12. But definitional disputes aside, it is a fact that the concept of full employment is a central focus of macroeconomic theory. Using the available macroeconomic resources including labour to the limit is a key goal of macroeconomics. The debate is over what the actual limit is. The related macroeconomic challenge is how to maintain full employment but at the same time achieve price stability, which means that prices are growing at a low and stable rate.

The clear point is that if you achieve that goal then you will be contributing to the prosperity and welfare of the population by ensuring real output levels are high within an environment of stable prices.

This book develops a framework for understanding the key determinants of these aggregate outcomes, the level and growth in output; the rate of unemployment; and the rate of inflation within the context of what we call a monetary system.

All economies use currencies as a way to facilitate transactions. The arrangements by which the currency enters the economy and the role that the currency issuer, the national government, has in influencing the outcomes at the aggregate level, is a crucial part of macroeconomics. Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), which is briefly outlined below, develops a macroeconomic framework that incorporates the unique features of the monetary system.

The MMT approach to macroeconomics

Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) is distinguished from other approaches to macroeconomics because it places the monetary arrangements at the centre of the analysis. Learning macroeconomics from an MMT perspective requires you to understand how money ‘works’ in the modern economy and to develop a conceptual structure for analysing the economy as it actually exists.

Most people are unaware that a major historical event occurred in 1971, when US President Nixon abandoned gold convertibility and ended the system of fixed exchange rates. Under that system, which had endured for about 80 years (with breaks for war), currencies were convertible into gold, exchange rates were fixed, and governments could expand their spending only by increasing taxes or borrowing from the private sector. After 1971, most governments issued their own currencies by legislative fiat; the currencies were not convertible into anything of value, and were floated and traded freely in foreign currency markets.

It is thus essential to understand the notion of a currency regime, which can range through a continuum from fixed exchange rate systems to floating exchange rate systems with varying degrees of exchange rate management in between. Understanding the way the exchange rate is set is important because it allows us to appreciate the various policy options that the currency issuer, the government has in relation to influencing the main objects of our study; employment, output and inflation.

A flexible exchange rate releases monetary policy from defending a fixed parity against a foreign currency. Fiscal and monetary policy can then concentrate on ensuring domestic spending is sufficient to maintain high levels of employment. A consequence of this is that governments that issue their own currencies no longer have to ‘fund‘ their spending. They never need to ‘finance’ their spending through taxes or selling debt to the private sector.

The reality is that currency issuing governments such as those of Australia, Britain, Japan and the US can never run out of money. These governments always have the capacity to spend in their own currencies.

Most of the analysis appearing in macroeconomics textbooks, which filters into the public debate and underpins the cult of austerity, is derived from ‘gold standard’ logic and does not apply to modern fiat monetary systems. Economic policy ideas that dominate the current debate are artefacts from the old system, which was abandoned in 1971.

At the heart of macroeconomics is the notion that at the aggregate level, total spending equals total income and total output. In turn, total employment is related to the total output in the economy. So to understand employment and output determination we need to understand what drives total spending and how that generates income, output and the demand for labour.

In this context, we will consider the behaviour and interactions of the two economic sectors that is, government and non govemment. Then we will unpack the non government into its component sectors, the private domestic sector (consumption and investment) and the external sector (trade and capital flows). In Chapter 4 we analyse in detail the so called National Accounts, drawing on these broad macroeconomic sectors. This approach is called the sectoral balance approach, which builds on the accounting rule that a deficit in one sector must be offset by surpluses in the other in the case of the government non government dichotomy.

More generally, the sum of the sectoral balances nets to zero when we consider the government, private, domestic and external sectors.

If one sector spends more than its income, at least one of the others must spend less than its income because for the economy as a whole, total spending must equal total receipts or income. While there is no reason why any one sector has to mm a balanced budget, the National Accounts framework shows that the system as a whole must. Often though, but not always, the private domestic sector rus a surplus, spending less than its income. This is how it accumulates net financial wealth. Overall private domestic sector saving (or surplus) is a leakage from the overall expenditure cycle that must be matched by an injection of spending from another sector. The current account deficit (the so called external sector account) is another leakage that drains domestic demand. That is, the domestic economy is spending more overseas than foreigners are spending in the domestic economy.

Here it is useful to differentiate between a stock and a flow. The latter is a magnitude per period of time. For example, spending is always a flow of currency per period (for example, households might spend $100 billion dollars in the first three months of 2016). On the other hand, a stock is measured at a point in time. For example, a student’s financial wealth could consist of a deposit account at a local bank, with a balance of $1000 on January 1, 2016.

The sectoral balances framework, outlined later, shows that a sectoral deficit (a flow, say per year) accumulates, as a matter of accounting to a financial debt (a stock). On the other hand, a sequence of sectoral surpluses accumulate to a financial asset which is also a stock.

MMT is thus based on what is known as a stock flow consistent approach to macroeconomics where all flows and resulting stocks are accounted for in an exhaustive fashion. The failure to adhere to a stock flow consistent approach can lead to erroneous analytical conclusions and poor policy design.

From the perspective of fiscal policy choices, an important aspect of the stock flow consistent approach that will be explained in greater detail in Chapter 5, is that one sector’s spending flow equals its income flow plus changes to its financial balance (stock of assets).

The textbook will show that a country can only run a current account deficit if the rest of the world wishes to accumulate financial claims on the nation (financial debt). Often these claims are in the form of government debt. The MMT framework shows that for most govemments, there is no default risk on government debt, and therefore such a situation is ‘sustainable’ and should not be interpreted to be necessarily undesirable. Any assessment of the fiscal position of a nation must be taken in the light of the usefulness of the govemment’s spending program in achieving its national socio-economic goals.

This is what Abba Lerner (1943) called the ‘functional finance” approach. Rather than adopting some desired budgetary outcome, government ought to spend and tax with a view to achieving ‘functionally’ defined outcomes, such as full employment.

0n matters of terminology, we avoid using the term ‘budget’ to describe the spending and taxation outcomes for the currency issuing government. Instead, we use to the term fiscal balance. A government fiscal deficit occurs when its spending exceeds its taxation revenue, whereas a fiscal surplus occurs when govemment spending is less than its taxation revenue.

The use of the term ‘budget’ to describe the fiscal balance invokes the idea that the currency issuing government faces the same ‘budget’ constraints as a household.

A careful understanding of the monetary system will make it obvious that the government is not a ‘big household”. The government can consistently spend more than its revenue because it creates the currency.

Households use the currency issued by the government and must finance their spending. Our access is constrained by the sources of available funds, including income from all sources, asset sales, and borrowings from external parties.

Whereas households have to save (spend less than they earn) to spend more in the future, governments can purchase whatever they like, as long as there are goods and services for sale in the currency they issue.

A sovereign government must spend first before it can subsequently tax or borrow. A household cannot spend more than its revenue indefinitely because continuously increasing private debt is unsustainable. The budget choices facing a household are thus limited and prevent permanent deficits. A currency issuing government can never be revenue constrained in a technical sense and can sustain deficits indefinitely without solvency risk.

In other words, our own personal budget experience generates no knowledge relevant to consideration of government matters.

The alternative narrative, which we present in this book, highlights the special characteristics of the government’s currency monopoly.

Fiscal surpluses provide no greater capacity to governments to meet future needs, nor do fiscal deficits erode that capacity. Governments always have the capacity to spend in their own currencies. The consequences of a fiscal surplus, the government spending less than it is taking out of the economy by way of taxation when a nation runs an external deficit will also be outlined.

In summary, budget surpluses force the non government sector into deficit and the domestic private sector is forced to accumulate ever increasing levels of indebtedness to maintain its expenditure. The textbook will explain why this is an unsustainable growth strategy and how eventually the private domestic sector is forced to reduce its risky debt levels by saving more and the resulting drop in non government spending will reinforce the negative impact of the government fiscal surplus on total spending.

The macro model

To organise the way of thinking in this regard we use a conceptual structure sometimes referred in the economics literature as a model, in this case a macroeconomic model. A model is just an organising framework and is a simplification of the system that is being investigated. In this textbook, we will develop a macroeconomic model, which combines narrative and some algebra to advance your understanding of how the real world economy operates. We will necessarily stylise where complexity hinders clarity, but we will always focus on the real world rather than an assumed world that has no relevance to the actual economy.

All disciplines develop their own language as a way of communicating. One might think that this just makes it harder to understand the ideas and we have sympathy for that view. But we also understand that students of a specific discipline, in this case macroeconomics should be somewhat conversant with the language of the discipline they are studying.

A macroeconomic model draws on concepts and algebraic techniques to advance our understanding of the main economic aggregates (such as output, employment and price level). This textbook design is unique because it specifically develops the MMT macroeconomic model, which will be applicable to the real world issues including economic policy debates. The application to policy is important because macroeconomics is what might be termed a policy science.

By placing government as the currency issuer at the centre of the monetary system we immediately focus on how it spends and how that spending influences the major macroeconomic aggregates that we seek to explain.

The framework will at first, provide a general analysis of government spending that applies to all currency exchange rate systems before explaining the constraints (policy options) that apply to governments as we move from a flexible exchange rate to a fixed exchange rate system. We will consider how the design of the monetary system impacts on the domestic policy choices open to government and the outcomes of specific policy choices in terms of output, employment and inflation.

Fiscal and monetary policy

The two main policy tools that influence what is termed the demand or spending side of the economy are monetary and fiscal policy.

Fiscal policy is represented by the spending and taxation choices made by the government (the ‘treasury’). The net financial accounting outcomes of these decisions are summarised periodically by the government fiscal position. Fiscal policy is one of the major means by which the government seeks to influence overall spending in the economy and achieve its aims.

The textbook will show that a nation will have maximum fiscal space:

– If it operates with a sovereign currency; that is. a currency that is issued by the sovereign government and its value is not pegged to foreign currencies; and

– If it avoids incurring debt in foreign currencies. and avoids guaranteeing the foreign currency debt of domestic entities (firms, households, and state, province, or city debts).

Under these conditions, the national government can always afford to purchase anything that is available for sale in its own currency. This means that if there are unemployed resources, the government can always mobilise them putting them to productive use through the use of fiscal policy. Such a government is not revenue constrained. which means it does not face the financing constraints that a private household or firm faces in framing its expenditure decisions.

To put it as simply as possible ~ this means that if there are unemployed workers who are willing to work, a sovereign government can afford to hire them to perform useful work in the public interest.

From a macroeconomic efficiency argument, a primary aim of public policy is to fully utilise available resources.

The central bank in the economy is responsible for the conduct of monetary policy, which typically involves the setting of a short term policy target interest rate (Fed Funds in the USA, also called bank rate in many counuies). In the recent global economic crisis the ambit of monetary policy has broadened considerably and these developments will be considered in Chapter 15.

The typical roles of a central bank include not only the conduct of monetary policy via the overnight interbank lending rate, but also operating the interbank clearing mechanism (so that bank cheques clear among banks), acting as lender of last resort (to stop bank runs), and regulating and supervising the banks.

MMT considers the treasury and central bank functions to be part of what is termed the consolidated government sector. In many textbooks, students are told that the central bank is independent from government. The MMT macroeconomic model will demonstrate how it is impossible for the two parts of government to work independently if the monetary system is to operate smoothly.

Policy implications for sovereign nations

MMT provides a broad theoretical macroeconomic framework based on the recognition that sovereign currency systems are in fact public monopolies per se, and that the imposition of taxes coupled with insufficient govemment spending generates unemployment.

An understanding of this point will be developed to allow the student to appreciate the role that government can play in maintaining its near universal dual mandates of price stability and full employment. The student will learn that there are two broad approaches to control inflation available to government in designing its fiscal policy choices.

Both approaches draw on the concept of a buffer stock to control prices. We will examine the differences between the use of:

a) Unemployment buffer stocks: The neoclassical approach, which describes the current policy orthodoxy, seeks to control inflation through the use of high interest rates (tight monetary policy) and restrictive fiscal policy (austerity). which leads to a buffer stock of unemployment. In Chapters 11 and 12. students will learn that this approach is very costly and provides an unreliable target for policy makers to pursue as a means for inflation proofing; and

b) Employment buffer stocks: Under this approach the government exploits its fiscal capacity, inherent in its currency issuing status, to create an employment buffer stock. In MMT, this is called the Job Guarantee (JG) approach to full employment and price stability. This model. which is considered by MMT to be the superior buffer stock option, is explained in detail in Chapter 12.

The MMT macroeconomic framework shows that a superior use of the labour slack necessary to achieve price stability is to implement an employment program for those who are otherwise unemployed as an activity floor in the real output sector, which both anchors the general price level to the price of employed labour of this (currently unemployed) buffer and can produce useful output with positive supply side effects.

Macro and the Public Purpose

The households and business firms in a modern capitalist economy make many of the important economic decisions that contribute to determination of the level of employment and output, the composition of that output, the distribution of income, and the prices at which output is sold. Claims are sometimes made that a ‘free market‘ economy comprised of individuals seeking only their own self interest can operate ‘harmoniously’ as if guided by an ‘invisible hand’.

In fact, economists had rigorously demonstrated by the 1950s that the conditions under which such a stylised economy could reach such a result couldn’t exist in the real world. In other words:

There is no scientific basis for the claim that ‘free markets’ are best.

In any case, these claims, even if true for some hypothesised economy, are irrelevant for the modem capitalist economies that actually exist. This is because all modern capitalist economies are ‘mixed‘, with huge corporations (including multinational firms), labour organisations, and big government. Individuals and firms operate within socio political cultural economic structures that are constraining but also enabling.

Sometimes the goals of individuals and firms coincide with what might be called the public purpose, while often they do not. In this section we will discuss the public purpose and the role played by government in trying to align private interests with socially progressive goals.

What is the public purpose? It is not easy to define or to identify the public purpose. One of the basic functions of any social organisation is to provide the necessary food, clothing, shelter, education, health care, legal framework, and socialisation for survival of the society.

While the subject of this course is economics, there is no sharp distinction between the sphere of economics and the spheres of other social sciences that study social processes. We usually think of the economy as the part of the social organisation that is responsible for provision of the material means of survival, the food. clothing, shelter, and so on. However, the economy is always embedded in the social organisation as a whole, affecting and affected by culture, politics, and social institutions.

Even if we can agree that any successful economic organisation should be able to produce adequate food for its population, that still leaves open many questions: What kind of food?; How should it be produced?; How should it be distributed?; and even, What does adequate mean?

Further, the society is comprised of harmonious individuals and groups. There are always conflicting claims and goals that must be moderated. There is no single, obvious public purpose to which all members of a society wish to strive. Even if we can identify a set of goals that the majority of society would like to work toward, that set will surely change over time as hopes and dreams evolve. The public purpose is an evolving concept.

The position taken in this book is that there is no ‘invisible hand’ that ensures that private interests are consistent with the public purpose. Indeed, the economy is just one component of the social organisation that is necessary to establish the always evolving public purpose and that is necessary to work towards achievement of the public purpose.

The ‘market’ is just one institution among a wide variety of social institutions working to delineate social goals that comprise the social and private purposes. Other institutions include political organisations, labour unions, manufacturers. and NGOs (non governmental organisations).

As we noted at the beginning of this Chapter, the national government must play an important role in society as it can help to identify the social purpose and to establish a social structure in which individuals and groups will work toward achieving the social purpose.

While it is admittedly difficult to outline what defines the social purpose, it is possible to identify widely accepted goals. For example, the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) commits signatory nations to a common set of relatively well defined goals.

The declaration is outlined on the United Nations Home Page:

Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

The Articles that define the Declaration include:

– Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

– No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

– Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted them by the constitution or by law.

– Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State.

– Everyone has the right to a nationality.

– Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.

– Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.

– Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change their religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest their religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

– Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart infomation and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

– Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

– Everyone has the right to take part in the government of their country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.

– Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in their country.

– Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realisation, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organisation and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for their dignity and the free development of their personality.

– Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment

– Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.

– Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for themselves and their family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.

– Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of their interests.

– Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

– Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well being of themselves and of their family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond their control.

– Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

– Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.

It is obvious that many of these identified human rights, especially near to the end of this list, are connected to the operation of the economy. For example, we argued above that any successful economy should provide adequate food, clothing, and shelter, and many of the human rights listed in the UN Charter address the material well being of a nation‘s population.

Further, other human rights that superficially appear to be unrelated to economic performance actually presuppose fulfilment of other human rights that are directly related to material well being.

For example, in a modern capitalist economy access to employment (one of the recognised rights) is necessary for full participation in society. Not only does a job provide income that allows one to purchase food, clothing, and shelter, but it also provides access to social networks, generates feelings of self worth as one contributes to social production, enhances social prestige, and helps to provide for retirement in old age.

Indeed, employment has been shown to have a wide range of other benefits to individuals and to society including better physical and psychological health, reduced crime and drug abuse, lower child and spouse abuse, and greater participation in other social and political activities.

To be sure, this list (which is itself only a partial listing of the agreed universal rights) includes many rights that have not been fully achieved even in the wealthiest and most democratic nations. In that sense, these rights are ‘aspirational’, with the signatory nations committing to striving toward achieving them. Again, if we look at the example of the right to work and to an adequate standard of living, those are rights that are routinely violated even in the best of times in the wealthiest of nations. Still, these universally recognised rights provide a measure against which nations can measure their progress.

Concluding thoughts on the public purpose

We conclude with three important points.

First, this reason the public purpose is broad and evolving over time, and for these reasons it varies across time and place. It should include rising living standards, particularly for those at the bottom of society. Environmental sustainability must be included. Reduction of racial, ethnic, and gender inequalities across the full socio political economic spectrum is an important component of the public purpose. This must go beyond simple economic measures such as family income to include full participation in the life of the community. The public purpose also should include reductions of crime. corruption, cronyism, invidious distinction, conspicuous consumption, and other social pathologies.

Second the UN Charter lays out what it sees as ‘universal’ human rights This is a useful, but not wholly satisfactory list to be included in a statement of the public purpose. What is considered to be a human right today might have appeared to be radically Utopian a century ago; and today’s list will appear far too cautiously conservative at some date in the future.

The public purpose is inherently a progressive agenda that strives to continually improve the material, social, physical, cultural, and psychological well being of all members of society. It is inherently ‘aspirational‘ in the sense that there is no end point as the frontiers of the public purpose will continually expand.

Third, the national government as well as international organisations (such as the United Nations) must play important roles in shaping our vision regarding the types of societies to which we aspire. And beyond setting these goals, governments at all levels must take the lead in developing sets of institutions, rules of behaviour, and sanctions for undesirable behaviour in order to move toward reaching the goals set as the public purpose.

As an example that demonstrates these points, a half century ago national governments and international organisations set about to eliminate the devastating disease known as smallpox. While markets and for profit production played a role in helping to develop vaccines, in distributing the vaccines, and in formulating information campaigns, private initiative alone would never have eliminated the disease.

The task was too big, it was not completely consistent with the self interest of profit seeking behaviour, and it required intemational cooperation beyond the reach of even the largest firms.

Hence, governmental organisations had to play a role.

With respect to the aspirational nature of the public purpose, successful elimination of smallpox would not be the end, but rather would serve as the beginning of a new campaign, to eliminate another disease, and then another and yet another.

Perhaps in a long distant future, a human right to a disease free life would be recognised, adding to an ever increasing list of established rights that all nations would be expected to protect.

While we cannot, of course, imagine such a future, it was not so long ago that the Congress of the US did not recognise the voting rights of women and African Americans. Today, any nation that denies the vote to members of society on the basis of gender, religion, race or ethnicity, or national origin is considered to be in violation of human rights, and thus, to be an international pariah, even though such restrictions were considered acceptable just a few generations ago. For example, white US women over the age of 21 did not secure the vote until the 1920 Presidential election, whereas in the UK suffrage was extended to all women over the age of 21 in 1928. In Australia aborigines were granted the right to enrol and vote in Federal elections in 1962. Many developed countries did not give women or minorities the vote until the 20th Century.

The public purpose is inherently progressive; it can never be finished.

Chapter 2:. How to Think and Do Macroeconomics

. . .

from

Modern Monetary Theory and Practice. An Introductory Text

by William Mitchell, L. Randall Wray and Martin Watts

get it at Amazon.com

“By all means, compare these shitheads to Nazis” Inspired by Trump, the world could be heading back to the 1930s – Jonathan Freedland.

The US president tears children from parents, and in Europe his imitators dehumanise migrants. We know where such hatred leads.

“Infest” is a word reserved for rats and insects. This is the language of those seeking to choke off human sympathy, by suggesting those suffering are not even human.

‘Where’s my seven-year-old? This is a long bath.’ And the officer says, ‘You won’t be seeing your child again?” It’s not the same as telling Jews about to die they are merely taking a shower, but in the use of deception the echo is loud.

You’ll remember Godwin’s law, which holds that the longer an online debate goes on, the likelier it is that someone will mention Hitler or the Nazis. It was an amusing observation and one that served a useful purpose, guarding against hyperbole and fatuous comparison. Except last August, as the American far right staged a torchlight parade in Charlottesville, Mike Godwin suspended his own law. “By all means, compare these shitheads to Nazis,” he tweeted. “Again and again. I’m with you.”

Despite that dispensation, I’ve tended to abide by my own version of Godwin’s law. I try to avoid Nazi comparisons, chiefly because they’re almost always wrong and because, far from dramatising whatever horror is under way, they usually serve to minimise the one that killed millions in the 1940s. And yet, there’s a cost to such self-restraint. Because if the Nazi era is placed off limits, seen as so far outside the realm of regular human experience that it might as well have happened on a distant planet Planet Auschwitz then we risk failure to learn its lessons. That would be to squander the essential benefit offered by study of the Third Reich: an early warning system.

So yes, when Donald Trump ordered US government agents on the southern border to separate migrant children from their parents, to tear screaming toddlers from their fathers and even to pull a baby from its mother’s breast, he was not re-enacting the Holocaust. He was not ordering the eradication of an entire people or sending millions to their deaths.

But there were echoes. And we must hear them.

For one, there’s the elemental act of separation itself. If you interview survivors of the Holocaust, one thing you notice is that even those who’ve grown used to describing events of the most extraordinary cruelty, and who can do so without shedding a tear, often struggle when they recall the moment they were parted from a parent. Mostly now in their 80s or older, they are taken back to that moment of childhood terror, one that never leaves them.

The parents ripped from those 2,300 children on the Mexican border were not led off to be murdered. But there are grounds to believe they may never again see their sons or daughters, some of whom were sent thousands of miles away. There is no system in place to reunite them. The children were not properly registered. How can a two-year-old who speaks no English explain who she is? Eighty years from now, perhaps, old men and women will sob as they recall the mother taken from them by uniformed agents of the US government, never to be seen again.

But the echoes don’t end there. The wire cages. The guards telling weeping children they are forbidden from hugging each other. And then this chilling detail, reported by Texas Monthly. It turns out that US border guards don’t always tell parents they’re taking their children away. “Instead, the officers say, ‘I’m going to take your child to get bathed.’ The child goes off, and in a half-hour, 20 minutes, the parent inquires, ‘Where is my flve year old?’ ‘Where’s my seven-year-old?’

‘This is a long bath.’ And the officer says, ‘You won’t be seeing your child again?” It’s not the same as telling Jews about to die they are merely taking a shower, but in the use of deception the echo is loud.

And if the mechanics of this operation strike a familiar note, so too does the rhetoric and propaganda deployed by those behind it and defending it. You don’t have to go to back to 1930s Germany to know that the first step towards catastrophe is the dehumanisation of a reviled group. It happened that way in Rwanda and the Balkans in the 1990s, and it’s happening in today’s United States. “These aren’t people, these are animals,” the US president said last month.

They want “to pour into and infest our country”, he tweeted this week. “Infest” is a word reserved for rats and insects. This is the language of those seeking to choke off human sympathy, by suggesting those suffering are not even human.

Trump’s defenders reinforce the message. It was a jolt to see Steve Hilton, one time shoeless guru of David Cameron’s Downing Street, now reinvented as a Fox News host, grinning away as pundit Ann Coulter called the crying infants “child actors”. Her message was repeated on Fox by Nigel Farage, who similarly urged Trumb not to be swayed by the “screams coming from the liberal media” and to “stay tough”.

Farage is a reminder that this phenomenon is not confined to the US. Referring to refugees, Italy’s new interior minister, Matteo Salvini, has called for a purification, or perhaps a cleansing, of his country, “neighbourhood by neighbourhood, street by street”. His plan is to draw up a register of Roma living in Italy. Those with Italian citizenship, “we’ll have to keep, unfortunately”, he said.

The signs are there, if only we can bear to look. Something is happening to our world. Others have noted the way the post-1945 global architecture is beginning to crumble, as Trump undermines the western alliance in favour of authoritarian tyrannies. But the postwar order is unravelling in another, more insidious way too.

Put starkly:

The norms and taboos established after the world witnessed the Holocaust are eroding before our eyes. For 70-odd years, roughly the span of a human life, they endured, keeping the lid on the darker impulses that, we had seen, lurked within all of us.

It steadily became taboo to voice undiluted racism and xenophobia. Those fears, those loathings of the stranger, never went away, of course. But they were held in Check, partly by the knowledge of where such hatred, unrestrained, could lead.

Now, in the US, Italy, Hungary, Poland and elsewhere, the restraints are off. There even seems to be a macho thrill in breaking the taboo, in echoing the words and deeds of that darkest era in human history. It’s as if the boundaries that were drawn after 1945, demarcating acceptable human behaviour, were mere lines in the sand and now the tide is coming in.

It doesn’t happen overnight. It happens bit by bit, word by word, each step taking us lower into the pit. It’s why every one of us has to fight today’s horror. Because if we don’t, who knows what terrors lie ahead?

Music and Empathy are psychological neighbours. Empathetic people process music differently – Stephen Johnson * Music, Empathy, and Cultural Understanding – Eric Clarke, Tia DeNora, Jonna Vuoskoski * Current Disciplinary and Interdisciplinary Debates on Empathy – Eva-Maria Engelen, Birgitt Röttger-Rössler * Neurophysiological Effects of Trait Empathy in Music Listening – Zachary Wallmark, Choi Deblieck, Marco Iacaboni. * Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI).

“The ‘other’ need not be a person: it can be music.” Clifton (1983)

There are two pathways when it comes to understanding each other: thinking or mind reading and feeling or empathy.

Empirical investigations have shown that people who have a tendency to be more empathic experience more intense emotions in response to music.

Listening to sounds, even outside of a musical context, significantly activates empathy circuits in the brains of high empathy people. In particular, sounds trigger parts of the brain linked to emotional contagion, a phenomenon that occurs when one takes on the emotions of another.

Musical engagement can function as a mediated form of social encounter, even when listening by ourselves. Recent research has shown that trait empathy is linked to musical preferences and listening style. If we consider music through a social psychological lens, it is plausible that individuals with a greater dispositional capacity to empathize with others might also respond to music’s social stimulus differently on a neurophysiological level by preferentially engaging brain networks previously found to be involved in trait empathy.

Music can be conceived as a Virtual Social Agent… listening to music can be seen as a socializing activity in the sense that it may train the listener’s self in social attuning and empathic relationships. In short, musical experience and empathy are psychological neighbors.

Esenherg et al (1991) define empathy as, “an emotional response that stems from another’s emotional state or condition and is congruent with the other’s emotional state or condition.”

Who or what do we empathize with when listening to music?

For some people music is able to represent a virtual person with whom to empathize, and whom they can experience as empathizing with their felt emotions. Studies that have investigated people’s reasons for listening to sad music when they already feel sad have found that some listeners can experience the music itself as providing empathy and understanding for the feelings that they are going through, functioning as a surrogate for an empathic friend.

Mirror neurons may be as much a consequence of a culture of inter-subjective engagement as they are a foundation for it.

It is quite conceivable that people who are inclined to imagine themselves from others’ perspectives also tend to take up the physical actions implied by others’ musical sounds, whether a smooth and gentle voice, a growled saxophone, or any other musical sound reflecting human actions.

It’s no surprise our level or empathy impacts how we process social interactions with other people. But how might empathy affect the way we process music?

That’s the question addressed in a first of-its-kind study published in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience. The results showed that high empathy people not only got more pleasure from listening to music, but also experienced more activity in brain regions associated with social interactions and rewards.

The implication is that empathy can make you interact with music as if it were a person, or a “virtual persona,” as described in a 2007 study:

“Music can be conceived as a virtual social agent… listening to music can be seen as a socializing activity in the sense that it may train the listener’s self in social attuning and empathic relationships.”

The researchers conducted two experiments to examine how empathy impacts the way we perceive music. In the first, 15 UCLA students listened to various sounds made by musical instruments, like a saxophone, while undergoing an fMRI scan.

Activation sites correlating with trait empathy (IRI subscales) in selected contrasts.

Some of the instrument sounds were distorted and noisy. The idea was that the brain might interpret these sounds as similar to the “signs of distress, pain, or aggression” that humans and animals emit in stressful scenarios, and these “cues may elicit heightened responses” among high-empathy people. Participants also completed the Interpersonal Reactivity Index, a selfreported survey commonly used by scientists to measure one’s level of empathy.

The results confirmed what the team had hypothesized: listening to the sounds, even outside of a musical context, significantly activated empathy circuits in the brains of high-empathy people. In particular, the sounds triggered parts of the brain linked to emotional contagion, a phenomenon that occurs when one takes on the emotions of another.

But how does empathy affect the way we listen to a complete piece of music?

To find out, the researchers asked students to listen to music that they either liked or disliked, and which was either familiar or unfamiliar to them. They found that listening to familiar music triggered more activity in the dorsal striatum, a reward center in the brain, among high-empathy people, even when they listened to songs they said they hated.

Familiar music also activated parts of the lingual gyrus and occipital lobe, regions associated with visual processing, prompting the team to suggest that “empathic listeners may be more prone to visual imagery while listening to familiar music.”

In general, high-empathy people experienced more activity in brain regions associated with rewards and social interactions while listening to music than did low-empathy participants.

“This may indicate that music is being perceived weakly as a kind of social entity, as an imagined or virtual human presence,” said study author Zachary Wallmark, a professor at SiViU Meadows School of the Arts. “If music was not related to how we process the social world, then we likely would have seen no significant difference in the brain activation between high-empathy and low empathy people.”

We often conceptualize music as an abstract object for aesthetic contemplation, Wallmark said, but the new findings could help us reframe music as a way to connect others, and to our evolutionary past.

“If music can function something like a virtual “other,” then it might be capable of altering listeners’ views of real others, thus enabling it to play an ethically complex mediating role in the social discourse of music,” the team wrote.

Music, Empathy, and Cultural Understanding

Eric Clarke, Tia DeNora, and Jonna Vuoskoski

In the age of the internet and with the dramatic proliferation of mobile listening technologies, music has unprecedented global distribution and embeddedness in people’s lives. It is a source of intense experiences of both the most individual (personal stereos) and massively communal (large-scale live events, and global simulcasts) kind; and it increasingly brings together or exploits a huge range of cultures and histories, through developments in world music, sampling, the re-issue of historical recordings, and the explosion of informal and ‘bedroom’ music making that circulates via YouTube. For many people, involvement with music can be among the most powerful and potentially transforming experiences in their lives.

To what extent do these developments in music’s mediated and mediating presence facilitate contact and understanding, or perhaps division and distrust, between people? This project has pursued the idea that music affords insights into other consciousnesses and subjectivities, and that in doing so may have important potential for cultural understanding.

The project:

1) brings together and critically reviews a considerable body of research and scholarship, across disciplines ranging from the neuroscience and psychology of music to the sociology and anthropology of music, and cultural musicology, that has proposed or presented evidence for music’s power to promote empathy and social/cultural understanding through powerful affective, cognitive and social factors, and to explore ways in which to connect and make sense of this disparate evidence (and counter-evidence);

2) reports the outcome of an empirical study that tests one aspect of those claims demonstrating that ‘passive’ listening to the music of an unfamiliar culture can significantly change the cultural attitudes of listeners with high dispositional empathy.

Researchers and Project Partners

Eric Clarke, Faculty of Music, University of Oxford

Tia DeNora, Sociology, Philosophy & Anthropology, Exeter University

Jonna Vuoskoski, Faculty of Music, University of Oxford

Introduction

Music is a source of intense experiences of both the most individual (personal stereos, headphone listening) and massively communal (large-scale live events, and global simulcasts) kind; and it increasingly brings together or exploits an exceptional range of cultures and histories, through developments in ‘world music’, sampling, historical recording and hybridization. At a time when musicology, the social and cultural study of music, have become far more circumspect about essentializing and romanticizing claims, it is still not uncommon to find claims being made for music as a ‘universal language’ that can overcome (or even transcend) cultural difference, break down barriers of ethnicity, age, social class, ability/disability, and physical and psychological wellbeing.

There are widespread symptoms of this belief or claim, including the activities of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra (founded by Edward Said and Daniel Barenboim, to bring together Israeli and Palestinian musicians); and the appointment by UNICEF of classical musicians to act as ‘goodwill ambassadors’, bringing their music to people in deprived, war-torn, or disaster-hit parts of the world so as to offer emotional support, solidarity, and a kind of communion.

An extract from the violinist Maxim Vengerov, who in 1997 was the first classical musician to be appointed a goodwill ambassador, reads: “1997, September: For Maxim Vengerov’s first official undertaking with UNICEF, he organized a musical exchange with children from Opus 118 a violin group from East Harlem, New York. The children of Opus 118, aged 6 to 13, came from three different elementary schools in this inner-city neighbourhood. This innovative programme has spurred a whole generation to learn ‘violin culture’. Along with the youths, Mr. Vengerov not only played Bach but also southern blues and tunes such as ‘Summertime’ and ‘We Shall Overcome’.”

And from the same webpage, beneath a picture showing the violinist in jeans and T-shirt playing as he leads a line of children in the manner of a latter-day Pied Piper is the caption: “In the remote village of Baan Nong Mon Tha, children from the Karen hill tribe ethnic group follow Maxim Vengerov, in a human chain, to a school run by a UNICEF-assisted NGO. Thailand, 2000.”

Similarly, the 1985 Live Aid, and 2005 Live 8, events were global pop music events intended not only to raise money (in the case of Live Aid) and popular pressure on politicians (in the case of Live 8) for the relief of famine and poverty, but also to galvanize a global consciousness and a united ‘voice’: as Bob Geldof, the prime mover of Live 8 put it: “These concerts are the start point for The Long Walk To Justice, the one way we can all make our voices heard in unison.”

And finally, the popular UK television series ‘The Choir’ (which has run to six series so far) documents the powerful ‘identity work’ and intense emotional experiences that accompany the formation of choirs in schools, workplaces, and military establishments out of groups of people who have had little or no previous formal musical experience, and who come from very varied walks of life (from bank executives to fire officers and military wives).

In all these very public examples of a much wider if less visible phenomenon, we see a complex mixture of implicit musical values, discourses about music’s ‘powers’, folk psychology and its sociological equivalent, and (in some cases) more or less grounded or unsupported claims about the impact of music on the brain (cf. Tame, 1984; Levitin, 2006). It would be easy to be hastily dismissive of some of these claims, but a considerable volume of research by highly regarded scientists and scholars, coming from disciplines that range from neuroscience and philosophy through psychology and sociology to anthropology and cultural studies has also made a significant case for the capacity of music and musicking (Small, 1998) to effect personal and social change (e.g. Becker 2004; DeNora 2013; Gabrielsson 2011; Herbert 2011). If music can effect change, and speak across barriers, it can also offer a means of intercultural understanding and identity work.

As Cook (1998: 129) puts it:

“If both music and musicology are ways of creating meaning rather than just of representing it, then we can see music as a means of gaining insight into the cultural or historical other. If music can communicate across gender differences, it can do so across other barriers as well. One example is music therapy… But the most obvious example is the way we listen to the music of other cultures (or, perhaps even more significantly, the music of subcultures within our own broader culture). We do this not just for the good sounds, though there is that, but in order to gain some insight into those (sub)cultures. And if we use music as a means of insight into other cultures, then equally we can see it as a means of negotiating cultural identity.”

In different ways, these (and other) claims seem to make use of a generalized notion of empathy. Empathy has recently seemed to gain considerable attention/currency in musicology, psychology of music, sociology of music and ethnomusicology as a way to conceptualize a whole range of affiliative, identity-forming, and ‘self-fashioning’ capacities in relation to music. But what is brought together or meant by the term ‘empathy’, and is it a useful and coherent way to think about music in relation to its individual and social effects?

Our project, and this report, arise from the disparate nature of the evidence for the claims about music’s transformative power, individually and socially, and the ‘scattering’ of the case across theories and findings in a huge disciplinary range: from research on music and mirror neurons (Overy and Molnar-Szakacs 2009) to the ethnomusicology of affect (Stokes 2010), the history of musical subjectivity (Butt 2010) and sociological studies of music and collective action (Eyerman and Jamieson 1998), the case has been made for different perspectives on music’s capacity to afford compassionate and empathetic insight and affiliation, and its consequent power to change social behaviour.

These diverse research strands all point to the crucial role that musicking plays in people’s lives, to its transformational capacity, and to the insights that it can afford. There is no single window onto ‘what it is like to be human’, but musicking seems to offer as rich, diverse, and globally distributed a perspective as any and one that engages people in a vast array of experiences located along dimensions of public and private, solitary and social, frenzied and reflective, technological and bodily, conceptual and immediate, calculated and improvised, instantaneous and timeless. The fact that music can be heard and experienced by large numbers of people simultaneously and in synchrony (orchestral concerts, stadium gigs, live simulcasts) means that the embodied experience of music can also be shared fostering entrainment and a sense of cosubjectivity. Indeed, some theories of the evolutionary significance of music highlight the importance of music’s empathy promoting aspects, suggesting that a fundamental adaptive characteristic of music is its capacity to promote group cohesion and affiliation (Cross & Morley, 2008).

While a whole range of studies has suggested that empathic interaction with other human beings is facilitated by musical engagement, the direct empirical evidence for this important possibility is scattered and disciplinarily disconnected. The aim of the project summarised in this report was to examine critically a substantial body of research evidence that relates to claims for music’s capacity to engender cultural understanding, primarily through the mediating construct of empathy; examine its consequences and significance, and provide a framework within which to connect its disparate elements and highlight points of interdisciplinary convergence and divergence; and carry out a focused empirical study that was designed to investigate a specific aspect of that complex case.

The report follows the general disciplinary outlines of the initial literature search, which revealed in excess of 300 items relating to the broad theme (‘Music, Empathy and Cultural Understanding’) of the project.

Empathy

The word empathy has had currency in English for little more than 100 years, listed by the Oxford English Dictionary as being first used by the psychologist Edward Titchener in 1909, and defined by the OED as:

“a. Psychol. and Aesthetics. The quality or power of projecting one’s personality into or mentally identifying oneself with an object of contemplation, and so fully understanding or appreciating it.

b. orig. Psychol. The ability to understand and appreciate another person’s feelings, experience, etc.”

Titchener’s ‘empathy’ was his attempt to translate the term Einfühlung, coined by the philosopher Robert Vischer (1873) in a book on visual aesthetics. But it was Theodor Lipps (1903) who really championed the concept of empathy, developing it from an essentially aesthetic category (the ability to ‘feel into’ an artwork) into a much more general psychological/philosophical concept to account for the human capacity to recognize one another as having minds. Laurence (2007) gives an important account of the origin and development of the idea of empathy, tracing a line back to Adam Smith’s (1759) The Theory of Moral Sentiments, and Smith’s appeal to a notion of sympathy and ‘fellow feeling’ as the basis for understanding and living a moral life that is based on imagining how we would feel in the circumstances of others. The distinction between imagining how we would feel and simply identifying with how another feels is crucial, since it places Smith’s notion of sympathy in the domain of imaginative reason rather than blind contagion, and makes clear the role of cultural artefacts (paintings, literature, drama, music) as a means of socially learning that sympathetic attitude.

Laurence also draws significantly on the work of Edith Stein (1917) a doctoral student of Edmund Husserl whose On the Problem of Empathy also engages with the problem of how it is that we can know or experience the mental states of others, whether this knowledge or experience is given in some direct and primordial sense, and Stein’s conclusion that empathy is dependent on the mediating role of similarity with the person (or even animal) with whom/which we attempt to empathize. Laurence ends up with definition of empathy that emphasizes empathy as both a process, and as a social and educable achievement:

“In empathizing, we, while retaining fully the sense of our own distinct consciousness, enter actively and imaginatively into others’ inner states to understand how they experience their world and how they are feeling, reaching out to what we perceive as similar while accepting difference, and experiencing upon reflection our own resulting feelings, appropriate to our own situation as empathic observer, which may be virtually the same feelings or different but sympathetic to theirs, within a context in which we care to respect and acknowledge their human dignity and our shared humanity.” (Laurence 2007: 24)

Finally, and in significant contrast to Laurence, Baron Cohen (2011) provides a wide ranging account of empathy that explicitly presents it as a psychometrically measurable trait, with a genetic and environmental basis, distributed in a particular network of brain regions, and manifested in seven ‘degrees’ ranging from the zero degrees of empathy of the psychopath or autistic person, to the six degrees of empathy of some ‘hyper empathic‘ individuals. Baron Cohen regards empathy as critically valuable human resource, and sees the erosion or loss of empathy as an issue of global importance that has the most serious consequences for social health at scales ranging from the family to international relations.

As this necessarily brief review has revealed, there is a significant range of perspectives on empathy, from which two in particular might be drawn. The first is the distinction between empathy as a skill or social achievement acquired, educable, and in some sense fundamentally collective; and empathy as a trait relatively fixed, individual, and with a genetic component. The second concerns the extent to which different perspectives emphasize the involuntary and inter subjective character of empathy (sometimes expressed through the metaphor of contagion), involving identification with the other and a loss of self; as opposed to a more cognitive and deliberate view in which empathy depends upon an imaginative projection into the circumstances of the other (closer to what Smith called sympathy).

These differences in perspective affect the scope and reach of the term empathy, and are an issue to which we return towards the end of this report in the specific context of music.

Music and Empathy across Different Fields

This section critically reviews the existing literature on music and empathy under a number of different conceptual and disciplinary headings.

1. Neuroscience

An increasing body of neuroscientific evidence indicates the very close coupling of perceptual and motor functions in the central nervous system, strongly suggesting that one way to account for the human capacity to adopt the perspective of another (sometimes referred to as ‘theory of mind’ or even ‘mind reading’) is on the basis of the way in which a person’s experience of their own actions is entangled with their perception of the actions of others. At the level of brain anatomy, it has long been recognized that there are suggestive parallels between the organization of sensory and motor cortices of the human brain and this might provide at least superficial evidence for the close relationship between perception and action.

More recently, however, and particularly in the wake of the discovery of mirror neurons in the early 1990s (e.g. Di Pellegrino, Fadiga, Fogassi, Gallese, and Rizzolatti G., 1992), there has been a surge of interest in the ways in which perception action relationships at the level of the central nervous system might provide a powerful way to explain a variety of intersubjective and empathic phenomena. Freedberg and Gallese (2007: 197) have argued that the activation of a variety of embodied neural mechanisms underlie a range of aesthetic responses, proposing that “a crucial element of esthetic response consists of the activation of embodied mechanisms encompassing the simulation of actions, emotions and corporeal sensation, and that these mechanisms are universal.” Freedberg and Gallese are primarily concerned with the embodied and empathic qualities of visual art, but Overy and co-authors (Molnar Szakacs & Overy 2006; Overy & Molnar Szakacs 2009; McGuiness & Overy 2011) have developed a persuasive model of how the embodied, emotive and empathic effects of music might be understood from a mirror neuron perspective.

(A mirror neuron is a neuron that fires both when an animal acts and when the animal observes the same action performed by another.
Thus, the neuron “mirrors” the behavior of the other, as though the observer were itself acting. Such neurons have been directly observed in primate species. Birds have been shown to have imitative resonance behaviors and neurological evidence suggests the presence of some form of mirroring system.
In humans, brain activity consistent with that of mirror neurons has been found in the premotor cortex, the supplementary motor area (SMA), the primary somatosensory cortex and the inferior parietal cortex.)

In simple terms, mirror neurons (or mirror systems as they are often called) are neurons in a motor area of the brain that become active when an individual merely observes an action of the kind that these neurons are usually responsible for controlling.

These ‘as if body loops’, as Damasio (1999) has called them, provide a direct identification with the actions of another, and constitute the fundamental building blocks of what Gallese (2001; 2003) has termed the ‘shared manifold’. The shared manifold is understood as a three-leveled mechanism for inter-subjective identification: i) a phenomenological level that is responsible for our sense of similarity with others which Gallese equates with an expanded notion of empathy; ii) a functional level characterized by models of self other interaction; and iii) a subpersonal level, instantiated by the activity of mirror matching neural circuits (Mirror Neuron Systems). The aim of the shared manifold hypothesis is to ground a sense of empathy and self other identity without suggesting that human experience and neuroscience can simply be collapsed into one another: hence the distinction between phenomenological, functional and subpersonal levels.

Gallese is also at pains to point out that self other identity is not all that there is to inter subjectivity: mirror systems do not allow us to experience others exactly as we experience ourselves, since to do so would (ironically) preclude the possibility of experiencing others as such at all. Our capacity to experience an external reality with content and behaviours that we can understand is made possible by “the presence of other subjects that are intelligible, while preserving their alterity character.” (Gallese 2003: 177)

At times the mirror neuron idea has been presented as if it were a hardwired feature of the brain that acted rather like a magic bullet. But as Heyes (2010) has argued, while one way to see mirror neurons is as an evolutionary adaptation (and therefore present at the species level), an alternative is to see the development of mirror systems as acquired through the operation of associative processes through the lifetime of individuals. From this perspective, mirror processes originate in sensorimotor experience, much of which is obtained through interaction with others. Thus, the mirror neuron system is a product of social interaction, as well as a process that enables and sustains social interaction. One rather specific example of this kind of plasticity is the finding by Bangert et al. (2006) that trained pianists listening to the sound of piano music showed significantly more neural activity in the motor areas of their brains than did a matched group of non-musicians.

2. Perception-action coupling, Empathy and Embodiment

Mirror systems are one way to understand inter-subjective interaction and identity, with direct relevance to music, at a neural level.

At the behavioural level there is another extensive literature that has revealed the significance of mimicry and synchronization in mediating human relationships in general, and music in particular. In a review of the extensive literature Chartrand and Dalton (2008; see also Chartrand & Bargh 1999) make the case for the importance of mimicry in social life, ranging from postural and facial to vocal and syntactic mimicry (people unconsciously mimicking one another’s accents and sentence structures) as both manifestations of existing social bonds and affiliations as well as the means by which such social bonds may be established (e.g. Inzlicht, Gutsell & Legault, 2012). As Heyes (2011) has argued such imitative behaviours may be automatic and insuppressible, and constitute a fundamental embodied basis for a critically important domain of human social interaction.

At a similarly general level, a number of authors (e.g. Valdesolo and DeSteno 2011) have demonstrated the power of synchronization in inducing altruistic and compassionate behaviours, this synchronization in many cases serving to entrain people’s behaviours upon one another.

With this general psychological literature in mind, it is easy to see that music powerfully affords these kinds of cooperative and affiliative engagements. Music has long been associated with socially coordinated work, worship and celebration, where its rhythmically entraining attributes and opportunities for controlled mimicry and complementation (such as in the ‘call and response’ character of many vernacular musical cultures) play a central role (e.g. Clayton, Sager and Will 2005).

Hove and Risen (2009) demonstrated with a tapping task that the degree of synchrony between individuals tapping together predicted how affiliated those individuals rated one another, and in a more directly musical context both Kirschner and Tomasello (2009) and Rabinowitch, Cross & Burnard (2012) have shown that over both shorter and longer timescales children involved in rhythmically synchronized music activities subsequently behaved more cooperatively and empathically than did children who were involved in an equivalent but not synchronized activity. Music is a powerfully multi-sensory, and particularly kinaesthetic (see Stuart 2012) phenomenon whose embodied character draws people into fluid and powerful social groups at a range of scales and degrees of (im)permanence, and in doing so helps to enact a kind of empathy.

3. Dispositional empathy and music

As discussed above, some authors (e.g. Baron-Cohen 2011) have understood empathy as a trait, arguing that since some people have a tendency to experience empathy more readily than others, being more or less empathic can be understood as a personality trait or a disposition.

In its broadest sense, dispositional empathy can be defined as an individual’s general responsiveness to the observed experiences of others, involving both perspective-taking capabilities or tendencies, and emotional reactivity (e.g., Davis, 1980).

Davis (1980) has suggested that dispositional empathy is a multidimensional construct comprising at least four components:

Perspective-taking (PT) can be understood as the ability as well as the tendency to shift perspectives (i.e., to see and understand things from another’s point of view)

Fantasy can be described as the tendency to identify oneself with fictional characters in books and films, for example. By contrast,

Empathic Concern (EC) taps into the tendency to experience feelings of compassion and concern for observed individuals, whereas

Personal Distress is associated with the individual’s own feelings of fear, apprehension and discomfort in response to the negative experiences of others.

Empathic Concern (EC) and Personal Distress are associated with the more emotional side of empathy.

Theories of music-induced emotions suggest that some form of empathy may be involved in the emotional responses induced by music (e.g., Scherer & Zentner, 2001; Juslin & vastfjall, 2008; Livingstone & Thompson, 2009). The proposed mechanisms range from pre-conscious ‘motor resonance’ with musical features that resemble vocal and motor expression of emotion (Molnar-Szakacs & Overy, 2006; Livingstone & Thompson, 2009) and emotional contagion (Juslin & Vastfjal, 2008) to empathizing with emotions and notions that are construed in the listener’s imagination (e.g., Scherer & Zentner, 2001). Indeed, empirical investigations have shown that people who have a tendency to be more empathic experience more intense emotions in response to music (Vuoskoski & Eerola, 2012; Ladinig & Schellenberg, 2011), providing indirect evidence for the role of empathy in music-induced emotions.

As people with high dispositional empathy are more susceptible to emotional contagion in general (Doherty, 1997), it may be that highly empathic people also experience emotional contagion from music more readily (Vuoskoski & Eerola, 2012). A complementary explanation is that empathic people may be more likely to engage in some form of reflective empathy during music listening, involving visual or narrative imagery, for example (e.g., Vuoskoski & Eerola, 2012; 2013).

Dispositional empathy has been associated with music-induced sadness in particular, as highly empathic people have been found to experience more intense sadness after listening to sad instrumental music (Vuoskoski & Eerola, 2012).

Interestingly, empathic individuals also tend to enjoy sad music more than non-empathic individuals, suggesting that empathically experienced negative emotions such as sadness can be enjoyable in the context of music (Vuoskoski et al., 2012; Garrido & Schubert, 2011).

Similar findings have been made in the context of films, where the experience of empathic distress while watching a tragic film has been associated with greater enjoyment of the film (De Wied et al., 1994).

It is not yet known what the mechanisms behind such enjoyment are, although the portrayal of more positive themes such as friendship, love, and human perseverance often present in tragic films have been proposed as one potential source (De Wied et al., 1994). However, it is not clear whether this explanation could also apply in the context of music. Nevertheless, these findings do suggest that there is something inherently enjoyable in empathic engagement in an aesthetic context even when the experienced emotions could be nominally characterized as negative.

4. Music as a virtual person, music and subjectivity

People tend to describe music in terms of attributes commonly used to describe psychological attributes of people (Watt & Ash, 1998). Indeed, it has been suggested that music is capable of creating a ‘virtual person’ of sorts (Watt & Ash, 1998; Livingstone & Thompson, 2009). The musical expression of emotion bears a close resemblance to human vocal and motor expression of emotion, involving similar auditory and gestural cues (for a review, see Juslin & Laukka, 2003), and it has been proposed that listeners may respond to music as they would to the perceived emotional state of a conspecific (e.g., Livingstone & Thompson, 2009). However, music’s capacity to represent a virtual person seems to go beyond acoustic and gestural cues that resemble vocal and motor expression of emotion.

An example is provided by studies that have investigated people’s reasons for listening to sad music when they already feel sad. These studies have found that some listeners can experience the music itself as providing empathy and understanding for the feelings that they are going through, functioning as a surrogate for an empathic friend (Lee, Andrade & Palmer, 2013; Van den Tol & Edwards, 2013).

The participants in Van den Tol and Edwards’s study felt that:

“The music was empathizing with their circumstances and feelings, supporting them, making them feel understood, or making them feel less alone in the way they were feeling” (Van den Tol & Edwards, 2013, p. 14).

Thus, it appears at least for some people that music is able to represent a virtual person with whom to empathize, and whom they can experience as empathizing with their felt emotions.

There has been considerable interest in the musicological literature in the relationship between music and human subjectivity (e.g. Cumming, 2000; McCIary, 2004), pursuing the idea that music has attributes either of an idealized person, or of an idealized collection or community of people. Lawrence Kramer (e.g. 2001; 2003) has written extensively about music as the instantiation of a kind of imagined subjectivity not associated specifically with the composer, performers, or anyone else explicitly and literally engaged with the making of the music, nor simply as the mirror of a listener’s own subjectivity, but in a more abstracted and generic manner. Likewise, the philosopher and violinist Naomi Cumming, in a paper that focuses on the violin introduction to the aria ‘Erbarme Dich’ from J. S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, writes of how the listener does not just find her or his own subjectivity passively reflected back, but reconfigured:

“The pathos of Bach’s introduction, and its elevated style, are quite unmistakable, and recognition promotes empathy. Once involved with the unfolding of the phrase’s subjectivity, the listener does not, however, find a simple reflection of his or her own expectancies. The music forms the listener’s experience, and in its unique negotiation of the tension between striving and grief, it creates a knowledge of something that has been formerly unknown, something that asks to be integrated in the mind of the hearer.” (Cumming, 1997: 17)

And in a still more explicitly psychological manner, DeNora (2000; 2003; 2013) has written of the ways in which music acts as a technology that affords a listener the opportunity to structure and organize their identity in long-term ways, and as a way of managing their immediate emotional states and sense of identity. Writing of one of her informants, ‘Lucy’, DeNora points out how she (Lucy) uses music as a medium in which she can draw a connection between the musical material, her own identity, and a kind of social ideal. As Lucy herself expresses it, she ‘finds herself’, the ‘me in life’ within musical materials, in a manner that allows her to reflect on who she is and how she would like to be, a process that DeNora points out is not just private and individual:

“Viewed from the perspective of how music is used to regulate and constitute the self, ‘solitary and individualistic’ practices may be re-viewed as part of a fundamentally social process of self-structuration, the constitution and maintenance of self. In this sense then, the ostensibly private sphere of music use is part and parcel of the cultural constitution of subjectivity, part of how individuals are involved in constituting themselves as social agents.” (DeNora, 2000: 47-8)

Music and musicking, then, can be viewed as a rich environment in which more or less active participants (listeners and makers) can engage with the real and virtual subjectivities of other real and virtual participants, and in doing so come to experience (and perhaps increasingly understand) the cultural perspective that those others (real or virtual) inhabit. Music is in this way both a medium for empathic (and antagonistic) engagement with others, and an environment in which to explore and experiment with a range of more or less projected, fantasized and genuinely discovered subject positions.

5. Sociological Perspectives

Turning from the rather individualistic accounts that have dominated the previous sections, towards understandings of music and empathy that take an explicitly social stance, sociological perspectives that enhance understanding of empathic processes derive from what may be termed the ‘new sociology of art’ (de la Fuente 2007). This sub-disciplinary paradigm investigates aesthetic materials for the ways that they may be seen to frame, shape or otherwise have an impact in social life. It is linked in turn to perspectives within sociology that cluster around the so-called, ‘strong’ program of cultural sociology (Alexander 2008) in which cultural materials are understood as active mediators of psycho-social and subjective processes and in which arts are not understood to be ‘about’ society or shaped ‘by’ society but rather ‘in’ society and constitutive of social relations (Hennion 2007).

These ‘new’ sociologies of art and culture are in turn linked to a ‘meso’ perspective in sociology devoted to groups of actors understood as networks of people, practices (conventions, operations, activities with histories of use) and things (Fine 2010). They focus on interaction orders (Fine 2012), or local actions that produce forms of ordering. The interaction order is the place where meanings are created, validated and reproduced in ways that travel to other networks.

Within this meso perspective there is no macro-micro divide since both macro and micro are mutually produced within scenes and settings of activity. The focus on this concerted activity in turn offers considerable scope for examining the question of just how cultural forms, including musical forms, actually enter into action and experience (DeNora 2003).

The impetus for these perspectives comes from various distinct but complementary developments in sociology since the middle 1980s that describe the ways that aesthetic and symbolic materials ‘anchor’ action (Swidler 2002) by presenting actors with orientational materials that can inform, focus and specify styles and trajectories of action in real time. The concern with how aesthetic materials ‘get into’ action (Acord and DeNora 2012) is one that has been associated with other developments in sociology, most notably the turn from a focus on the cognitive components of action, and models of social actors as calculating beings, to a focus on embodiment and feeling (Witkin 1994). These developments resonate well with, and are further illuminated by, developments in the philosophy of consciousness that begin with notions of the ‘extended mind’ (Clark and Chalmers 1998) and draw out that concept to embrace ‘the feeling body’ (Colombetti 2013) in which embodied conditions and sensations are understood both to take shape in relation to things outside of individuals and to inform cognitive appraisal.

Insofar as feeling and embodiment can be understood to take shape through encounters with aesthetic materials and can be understood to cultivate sensibilities or predispositions in favour of some social scenarios (and thus, contrarily, away from others), aesthetic materials have been highlighted within sociology as sources of social order. In this respect, the ‘new’ sociology of art harks back to Adam Smith’s ideas of sympathy and the capacity for fellow feeling discussed above, in which Smith suggests that the capacity for fellow feeling and being able to imagine the other is a lynchpin of mutual orientation and, thus, social stability. While Smith makes it clear that sympathy (the capacity to imagine the other) is not empathy (the capacity to feel what the other is feeling, literally to share their experience), Smith’s focus on the prerequisites for achieving sympathy highlight the importance of bodily processes. Specifically, Smith describes how, if sympathy is to be achieved, it is necessary for actors to moderate their passions (tamp down, raise up levels of intensity or ‘pitch’ as Smith calls it) so as to encourage mutual engagement through shared modalities of feeling (Smith 1759: I. I. 36-39). In this respect, Smith’s interest in mutual emotional calibration, understood as a prerequisite of mutual understanding, resonates with Alfred Schutz’s concept of attunement, understood as the prerequisite for ‘making music together’ (his example is the performance of a string quartet used as a case in point of social action writ large and the need for mutual orientation, entrainment, calibration and the gestalt to which they give rise, namely, shared feeling forms.

Classical sociology can, in short, be read as offering important leads for the study of empathy, understood as emotional and embodied mutual orientation, predisposition and preference, and in this sense it can also be read as offering an excellent basis for appreciating ‘art in action’ and the role of the arts in underwriting communicative action or how we bind ourselves together in time, whether in conversation, with its prosodic and timing patterns (Scollon 1982), or more generally, as Trevarthen puts it, as the dynamic sympathetic state of a human person that allows co-ordinated companionship to arise’ (cited in Ansdell et al 2010). As such the arts, and in the case of this project, music, can be conceptualised as offering materials for shaping up the feeling body from infancy to old age, in a wide range of roles and guises.

But if the arts and music more specifically ‘get into’ action, the question, as stated earlier, remains: how does this happen and can we trace that process? And in relation to empathy, this question can be posed in terms of how shared feeling states, sensibilities and predispositions come about, and how they can be cultivated and thus also how they may be more problematically controlled (Hesmondhalgh 2013; Born 2012; DeNora 2003). Within sociology the most fruitful paradigms have focused upon learning, mostly informal situated learning, among which the classic work on this topic is Howard S. Becker’s ‘Becoming a Marijuana User’ (1953).

Becker’s piece has been used by subsequent scholars to develop new (grounded) theories of how culture gets into action from comparisons of how one learns to respond to musical ‘highs’ (Gomart and Hennion 1999) to how one learns to feel and respond sexually (Jackson and Scott 2007; DeNora 1997) and how one learns to respond in various workplaces and forms of occupation (Pieslack 2009; DeNora 2013) and how one manages and modifies emotions and energy levels as part of everyday self-care (DeNora 2000; Batt-Rawden, DeNora and Ruud 2005; Skanland 2010) or in scene-specific settings such as retail outlets (DeNora 2000). Specifically these studies have followed the ways that individuals and groups engage in processes of modelling, adjustment, tutoring and directing and attempted alignment with musical materials in ways that draw out emotional and embodied sensation and experience in musically guided ways. This work helps to highlight just how deeply culture can come to penetrate embodied processes and experiences, and thus dovetails with more recent work on the culturally mediated experience of health and wellbeing.

6. Music Therapeutic and Wellbeing Perspectives

The focus on music, health and wellbeing is a growing area (Koen et al 2008; MacDonald et al 2012; MacDonald 2013). It encompasses music therapeutic perspectives, community music, psychotherapeutic perspectives and more overtly medical applications as well as the history of medicine and healing. At the level of the individual, and in overtly medical contexts, research in these areas has documented music’s potential for the management of pain (Edwards 2005; Hanser 2009), anxiety (Drahota et al 2012), palliative care (Aasgaard 2002; Archie et al 2013; DeNora 2012), and immunology (Fancourt et al 2013; Chandra and Levitin 2013) all of which emphasise mind-bodyculture interaction. At the broader level at which music connects with and can be seen to contribute to wellbeing, music has been described ecologically as part of salutogenic (health-promoting) space (DeNora 2013).

In all of this work, there are excellent resources for the study of empathy, in particular for investigating empathy understood as sensibility, perception and orientation as musically mediated. Specifically, the focus on the malleability of consciousness and selfperception (Clarke and Clarke 2011) points to a human capacity for entering into different modes of awareness, ones that are simultaneously sensitising (aesthetic) and desensitising (anaesthetic), and in so doing indicates the importance and power of the cultural technologies through which altered states can be achieved. The case of music and pain management illustrates many aspects of this theme.

As Hanser has described it, recent theoretical understandings of pain have moved toward a multi-dimensional conception of pain perception, one in which pain is not unmediated but rather comes to be experienced in relation to cultural and situated interventions, including music. In part, musical stimuli simply compete with neural pain messages. But more interestingly, music stimulates both oxytocin and embodied sympathetic responses (Grape 2002; Hurlemann et al 2010). Recent interdisciplinary perspectives highlight how the music, in tandem with other biographical and contextual factors, may lead a person in pain into alternative situations, ones in which she/he becomes sensitised to musically inspired associations and desensitised to the former situation of being in pain. Thus, music cannot necessarily address the cause of the pain but it can redirect the sensation of pain by capturing consciousness in ways that recalibrate it (DeNora 2013). So too, in the Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music (Bonde 2012) music may provide a grid or template against which knowledge-production (memory, self-and mutual understanding, historical accounts) can be elaborated and scaffolded in ways that can be used to diminish ‘negative’ emotions and associations, effectively recalibrating perception and, in this case, the self-perception of pain.

Methodologically, the music therapy index (Nordoff & Robbins 2007), a highly detailed real-time log of musical and para-musical action, can be used to display key or pivotal moments of musically instigated or musically guided action (movement, shifts in comportment, utterances). So too, the ‘musical event’ scheme can be used to track with some precision the ways in which the musical permeates the paramusical and vice versa across time and in keeping with the meso focus described earlier networks (DeNora 2003; Stige and Aara 2012).

More generally, and in ways that draw music therapy and music and conflict resolution into dialogue, musical engagement may be used to transform psycho-social situations, again leading the actor or actors away from the perception of distressing features of body/environment and toward more positive features and scenarios, and in ways that may also contribute to hope, patience and general mental wellbeing (Ansdell et al 2010; Ansdell 2014) as well as broader forms of cross-cultural and interactional accord, linked to music and guided imagery (Jordanger 2007). Community Music Therapy has perhaps most notably described music’s role in the production of communitas, through joint improvisation and as a means of generating proto-social capital (Procter 2012).

Within the growing field of music and conflict transformation studies (Laurence 2007), a key theme has focused on the importance of shared practice and actual grass-roots (bottomup) musicking as a prerequisite for enduring forms of change (Bergh 2011; 2010; Robertson 2010). In particular, as Bergh has described, if music is to contribute to enduringly altered practice, or altered consciousness of the other, that endurance requires continued and repeated practice, continued and repeated participation in musical activity. And as we have already indicated, music is by no means an unmitigated ‘good’ within the conflict transformation literature: as Bergh has observed (Bergh 2011), music can be and has been used to inculcate feelings of animosity, or for purposes of oppression and torture (Cusick 2008); and historically has been incorporated into military culture through drill, march music and, more recently, through psych-op motivational techniques (Gittoes 2004; Pieslack 2009). Indeed Laurence (2007: 33), even while writing of the potential for music in conflict resolution, argues that inculcating peaceful values is one of music’s rarest uses, and that “of music’s purposes, many and probably most, serve the ongoing ends of power relationships one way or another.”

7. Cross-cultural perspectives

The final category of literature that we consider in this report touches on the potentially vast question of cultural and cross-cultural understanding. Within the psychology of music there has been an interest in the relationship between possibly ‘universal’ and culturally specific aspects of musical communication dating back to the very beginnings of both the psychology of music and ethnomusicology in the work of Carl Stumpf (Stumpf & Trippett 1911/2012).

Among other more recent empirical studies, Balkwiil, Thompson, & Matsunaga (2004) have shown that music can successfully communicate emotional meanings across different cultures, but ethnomusicologists, perhaps rightly suspicious of simplistic notions of inter-cultural communication, have pointed to issues of representation, and of the incommensurability of concepts (or in this case emotional meanings) across cultural contexts as factors that might undermine the validity of a naively empirical approach (Stock 2014). A number of authors have recently proposed the value of a ‘relational musicology’ that might tackle issues of inter-cultural understanding, including Cook (2012: 196) who argues for relational musicology as “a means of addressing key personal, social and cultural work that is accomplished by music in today’s world.”

One specific kind of ‘cultural work’ that has recently been addressed in ethnomusicology that is of direct relevance to this project is the affective and social work that is accomplished by/within modern ‘sentimental’ cultures. Martin Stokes (2007; 2010) has provided vivid accounts of the emotional, intimate and affiliative character of contemporary sentimental musical cultures in Egypt and Turkey, and Butterworth (2014) in relation to Peruvian huayno music, in which something very much like empathy (though Stokes relates it more directly to a ‘Smithian’ as in Adam Smith notion of sympathy) is understood as a cultural construct or condition. In Stokes’s words (2010: 193), one might view “sentimentalism as a kind of civic project, a way of imagining affable relations of dependence on strangers in modern society.” This is a very different perspective on empathy one that sees it as a social achievement, rather than personality trait; a collective skill, rather than the expression of a circuit of ten interconnected brain regions (cf. Baron-Cohen 2011). As Cook (2012) argues in relation to the relational understanding of musical methods from one domain applied to another (Schenkerian analysis and Chinese music; Nineteenth century Western transcriptions of Indian melodies that were presented as ‘authentic Hindostannie airs’), such encounters conceived within an appropriate relational conceptual framework offer a domain of shared experience and cross-cuitural understanding.

Figure 1. Mean IAT scores (D-values) ±standard error of the mean, grouped by condition. Positive D-values indicate an unconscious preference for West African (relative to Indian) people, and negative values indicate an unconscious preference for Indian (relative to West African) people.

To investigate the effect of listening to Indian vs. West African music on participants’ Dvalues as well as the hypothesized moderating effect of dispositional empathy on the effects of music we conducted an ANCOVA with the Type of Music (Indian or West African) as a factor, and Dispositional Empathy (global IRI scores) as a covariate. We also included an interaction term of Type of Music and Dispositional Empathy in the model. There was no significant main effect of Type of Music; F(1,54) = 2.59, p = .11, although the trend was in the anticipated direction with participants exposed to Indian music displaying a slight preference for Indian (relative to West African) people, and participants exposed to West African music displaying no apparent preference.

The mean D-values of the two groups are displayed in Figure 1. As might have been expected, Dispositional Empathy was not significantly related to IAT scores when examined across the two conditions; F(1,54) = 0.20, p = .89. However, there was a significant interaction between Type of Music and Dispositional Empathy; F(1,54) = 5.51, p = .023, n(2/p) = .09, suggesting that dispositional empathy indeed moderated participants’ susceptibility to the musical manipulations. The relationship between dispositional empathy and D-values in the two groups is displayed in Figure 2. We also investigated the potential contributions of musical training, sex, and subjective responses to the music (ratings of liking and felt emotional impact) to the D-values, but no statistically significant relationships were found.

Figure 2. The relationship between dispositional empathy and IAT scores (D value), grouped by condition. Positive D values indicate an unconscious preference for West African (relative to Indian) people, and negative values indicate an unconscious preference for Indian (relative to West African) people.

2 Conclusions

The empirical study has provided preliminary evidence for the hypothesis that listening to music without any explicit semantic content (such as comprehensible lyrics) can evoke empathy and affiliation in listeners with high dispositional empathy. This interpretation is supported by the significant interaction between Type of Music and Dispositional Empathy, which revealed that people with high dispositional empathy scores were more likely to display an unconscious preference for the ethnic group to whose music they were exposed than those with low dispositional empathy scores. The fact that high dispositional empathy made participants more susceptible to the musical manipulations suggests that the observed findings cannot be explained in terms of priming or knowledge activation effects, such as those observed in the case of background music and purchasing decisions (e.g. North, Hargreaves & McKendrick, 1999). The lack of a statistically significant relationship between the IAT scores and liking ratings also indicates that our findings cannot be accounted for by a simple preference effect (cf., Nantais & Schellenberg, 1999).

Instead, we propose that the more empathic participants may have been more open to the music, and more likely to entrain with the music involving internal mimicry and emotional contagion; and may also have been more likely to engage in reflective empathy, in the form of visual and/or narrative imagery, and/or semantic elaboration. In the context of music, entrainment comprises both temporal as well as affective components (see e.g., Phillips-Silver & Keller, 2012), and in general imitation and entrainment have been found to both reflect and elicit affiliation (Chartrand & Bargh 1999; Hove & Risen 2009). Since people with high dispositional empathy have been found to exhibit stronger motor and sensory resonance to observed actions, and the pain of others (Gazzola, Aziz-Zadeh 8i Keysers, 2006; Avenanti et al., 2008), it is possible that empathic people are also more likely to resonate with the acoustic and gestural features of music. This stronger resonance could explain why empathic individuals are more susceptible to emotional contagion from music (cf. Vuoskoski & Eerola, 2012), and why they also appear to be more sensitive to the affiliation-inducing effects of music listening.

However, further investigation is required in order to better understand the phenomenon, and to distinguish between the potential contributions of pre-reflective motor and affective resonance, and the more reflective empathy involving imagery, perspective-taking, and other extra-musical associations. As dispositional empathy comprises both emotional reactivity and cognitive perspective-taking attributes, either or both of these components may contribute to the observed affiliation-inducing effects of music listening. A possible way to investigate this would be to implement a nondemanding distractor task during the music listening, which would limit participants’ capacity to conjure up imagery and other extra-musical associations. Furthermore, the failure to find a statistically significant main effect of Type of Music on participants’ implicit associations could either be due to the fact that the variation in participants’ pre-existing preferences for Indian vs. West African people was too great in relation to our sample size, or that the participants with low dispositional empathy were simply not affected by the music.

Future studies could attempt to investigate this issue by implementing pre as well as post-manipulation measures of implicit associations, although there may be other, more problematic issues associated with exposing participants to Indian and West African images prior to the musical manipulations.

5. General Discussion, Implications, Prospects

The result of our empirical study provides some evidence for the capacity of music even when encountered in arguably the most passive circumstances (solitary headphone listening in a ‘Iaboratory’ setting) to positively influence people’s unconscious attitudes towards cultural others. Specifically, people with higher dispositional empathy scores show more differentiated positive associations with images of people from two different cultural groups after listening to music explicitly belonging to that cultural group than do people with lower dispositional empathy scores.

This is a striking result, and provides what might be characterized as narrow but ‘hard-nosed’ evidence for music’s positive inter-cultural potential, and we have speculated on the broad psychological mechanisms (including entrainment, mimicry, emotional contagion, and semantic elaboration) that may be responsible.

But a number of notes of caution also need to be sounded. We have no evidence for the robustness or duration of the effects that we have observed: it may be that this is a very temporary shift that is easily disrupted, casting doubt on the practical efficacy of music as an agent of change in cultural understanding. And in the light of the interaction with dispositional empathy, the result suggests that any practical efficacy might be confined to those individuals who are already predisposed to be empathic towards others arguably those people who are (to put it simplistically) the least urgent cases.

Are we then forced to conclude that music has little or no power to change attitudes among those people who are most resistant? Perhaps more seriously, music as we have already indicated is arguably as capable of distinguishing (Bourdieu 1984/1979), dividing and alienating people as it is of bringing them together. Hesmondhalgh (2013: 85) points out that “Music can reinforce defensive and even aggressive forms of identity that narrow down opportunities for flourishing in the lives of those individuals who adhere to such forms of identification”, and provides a vivid anecdotal example of just such a defensive/aggressive encounter with or through music. He describes a Friday night out with friends at a pub where an Elvis impersonator is performing. Having at first dreaded the performance, Hesmondhalgh and his friends, along with a large number of strangers who are also in the pub for a night out, are quickly won over and join with one another, and the performer, with increasing intensity. The chorus of the final song “elicits an ecstasy of collective singing, women and men, all at the top of our voices. There are smiles and laughter, but there’s melancholy too. It seems that bittersweet lines from the Elvis repertory are invoking thoughts about relationships, past and present… [We] stagger out of the pub feeling we’ve had a great night, and that the working week has been obliterated by laughter and bittersweet emotion. Unwittingly, I brush against a man’s drink as I’m leaving, and he follows me out demanding an apology for his spilt beer… The power of Elvis’s music, it seems, has brought strangers and acquaintances together, and with a formidable intensity. But my pursuer has reminded me unpleasantly that there are those who feel excluded from such collective pleasures. If music-based gatherings answer to our need for sociality and attachment, and combat loneliness, might they also evoke envy when others miss out?” (Hesmondhalgh 2013: 103-4)

Are we to regard music’s affiliative and divisive attributes as two sides of the same coin, or as a more fundamental incompatibility between emancipatory and oppressive qualities? Indeed, rather than considering how music might help to make a bridge between apparently pre-existent cultural ghettos, should we not be asking in what ways music is already implicated in the establishment and maintenance of those very ghettos in the first place? These are significant challenges to the potentially starry-eyed representation of music that an uncritical attitude might project; but as Hesmondhalgh, again, puts it: “Music’s ability to enrich people’s lives [and expand their empathic understanding] is fragile, but I believe it can be defended better if we understand that fragility, and do not pretend it floats free of the profound problems we face in our inner lives, and in our attempts to live together.” (Hesmondhalgh 2013: 171)

Part of understanding that ‘fragility’ is considering what, if anything, is special about music as a force for (compromised) cultural benefit. Why not football, or food, both of which can lay claim to mass engagement and global reach? Is there anything about music that affords either particular, or particularly powerful or efficacious kinds of intercultural engagement? One way to tackle these questions is consider what the mechanisms for empathy and cultural understanding might be, and in what ways those mechanisms are engaged by different cultural manifestations whether those are music, food or football. As our critical review of the literature reveals, this is a fascinating but considerable challenge, and one that turns in part on how broad or narrow a conception of empathy is entertained.

One approach might be to admit a considerable range of inter-subjective engagements as occupying different positions on an empathy spectrum, from conditions of seIf-other identity in the context of what might be called ‘deep intersubjectivity’ (perhaps emblematically represented by that pre-Oedipal oneness between mother and infant); through powerful experiences of compassionate fellow-feeling; to the operation of much more controlled and deliberate rational, imaginative projection into the circumstances of others. Some (such as Adam Smith, Felicity Laurence and Colwyn Trevarthen) would want to make firm distinctions between, say, empathy and sympathy. But an alternative might be to agree on an umbrella term (and empathy might do), and then focus on what distinguishes different positions under the umbrella, and what the implications (practical, functional, conceptual) of those differences might be.

A common thread that runs through most of these positions is the central role of embodiment in empathy. From the most neuroscientifically reductionist approach (e.g. a ‘fundamentalist’ mirror neuron perspective) to the position of Smith or Stokes, a capacity to feel the situation of another underpins the inter-subjective character of empathy/feIlow-feeling/sympathy. And arguably it is in this respect that music has ‘special properties’ properties of enactment, of synchronization and entrainment in situations ranging from a single individual alone with their music (the solitary headphone listener ‘Lost in music’ (Clarke 2014) to massively social contexts (pop festivals, simulcasts) where enormous numbers of peopie can participate in collective, synchronized, embodied engagement.

As others have pointed out (e.g. Cross 2012), music is a uniquely widespread, emotionally and physically engaging, social, participatory and fluidly communicative cultural achievement, a powerful (cultural) ecological niche that affords extraordinary possibilities for participants, and which both complements and in certain respects surpasses those other global cultural achievements in which human beings participate (language, religion, visual culture, craft). There is little, perhaps, to be gained by attempting to set any one of these up on a uniquely high pedestal but equally it is important not to flatten the terrain by failing to recognize music’s particular combination of affordances in this rich cultural mix: cognitive and emotional complexity, from solitary to mass-social engagement, compelling embodiment, floating intentionality (Cross 2012), synchronization/entrainment, flexible mimicry, temporal and ambient character, and digitaI-analog mix.

As our critical review of the literature has revealed, the empathy-affording character of this mix of affordances has been explored and theorized across an astonishing range of disciplines invoking mechanisms that range from mirror neurons to semiotics and the cultural history of sentimentalism. Are these kinds of explanation in any way compatible with one another, and is there a way to avoid a simplistic and potentially reductionist ‘layers of an onion’ approach in which supposedly ‘fundamental’ biological attributes (whether those are genetic in the case of a narrowly ‘trait’ perspective on empathy; or neurological in the case of sensorimotor contingency theory) underpin progressively more ramified and arbitrary cultural constructs? We have already seen (e.g. Heyes 2010) that from within the scientific literature itself, as well as from outside it, there is ample evidence for the plasticity of so-called fundamental properties, and for the reciprocal relationship between biology and culture. Mirror neurons may be as much a consequence of a culture of inter-subjective engagement as they are a foundation for it. But it clearly remains a considerable challenge to develop in detail the more flexible and relational approach that we point towards in this report.

Finally, there is the question of the utility of the concept or term ‘empathy’ itself. Perhaps rather like the word ‘meaning’, it both enables and suffers from the capacity to bring together a wide range of phenomena, which critics may find unhelpful in its heterogeneity. We share the concern not to confuse chalk with cheese, but against a drive to compart-mentalize (sic) we are persuaded of the long-term value of sticking with a word and its associated conceptual field which, although still just a century old, offers a rich and powerful way to try to understand a central element of human sociality. The debates about whether to understand empathy as a genetic predisposition, a personality trait, an emergent attribute of perception-action coupling, a skill, or a social achievement are symptomatic of the conceptual reach of the term.

Engelen and Rottger-Rossler (2012), in a brief overview of a speciai issue of the journal Emotion Review devoted to empathy, declare in their first sentence that “there is no accepted standard definition of empathy, either among the sciences and humanities or in the specific disciplines”, but nonetheless emphatically endorse the importance of continuing to develop better understandings of that fundamentally social capacity to “feel one’s way into others, to take part in the other’s affective situation, and adopt the other’s perspective“ to grasp the other’s intentions and thus to engage in meaningful social interaction.”

We, too, are committed to the value of that enterprise, and to the specific role that music may play in understanding empathy, and as itself a ‘medium’ for empathy. In addressing the complex network of relationships between neighbouring terms (sympathy, compassion, contagion, entrainment, ‘theory of mind‘, attunement…) we see the prospect of a more nuanced and differentiated understanding of what Baron Cohen (2011: 107) has characterized as “the most valuable resource in our world” and “an important global issue related to the health of our communities.”

Current Disciplinary and Interdisciplinary Debates on Empathy

Eva-Maria Engelen, Birgitt Röttger-Rössler, University of Konstanz, Department of Philosophy & Freie Universitat Berlin, Social and Cultural Anthropology

Almost anybody writing in the field would declare that there is no accepted standard definition of empathy, either among the sciences and humanities or in the specific disciplines. However, even when accepting that there can be no all time and universally valid definition, one can still try to clarify some aspects and establish a few landmarks that will help to ensure that the phenomenon with which various researchers are dealing is the same or has at least important features in common.

Although there is no established concept, several topics and discussions have proved to be crucial for the phenomenon that was once given this specially made up label empathy by Edward Titchner who introduced this word into English at the beginning of the 20th century in order to translate the German term Einfühlung.

The idea behind this special issue on empathy is to present a range of the currently most lively topics and discussions to be found not only within several disciplines but also across several disciplinary boundaries. This makes it interdisciplinary. Authors from different disciplines were asked to contribute to the field in a style that would be accessible for a broader range of interested readers. These contributions come from the following disciplines in which empathy is either an ongoing or an upcoming topic of academic interest: neuropsychology, developmental psychology, philosophy, literary studies, and anthropology. The commentators giving their views on the articles are sometimes experts on empathy from the same discipline as the authors and sometimes from adjoining ones. We tried as far as possible to introduce crossovers, but these did not always fit.

Points of Discussion and Open Questions

Roughly speaking, there are two pathways when it comes to understanding each other: thinking or mind reading and feeling or empathy. Nonetheless, one of the ongoing debates in psychology and philosophy concerns the question whether these two abilities, namely, understanding what the other is thinking and “understanding“ what the other is feeling, are separate or not.

Other debates refer to the best theoretical model for empathy and ask whether it makes sense to assume just one kind of empathy or whether one should differentiate between at least two kinds: cognitive and affective.

Further questions are: Does a living being have to be able to make a self-other distinction in order to be empathic? How far do emotional contagion or sympathy and pity differ from empathy? Is empathy necessarily an affective ability and does it have to be conscious? Does it occur in face to face relationships between two persons or more? And can it also occur between a reader and a fictive character in a novel (Coplan 2004)?

These are just some of the questions currently being discussed. But before addressing them in detail in the following six articles and twelve commentaries, we shall survey the different definitions of empathy presented and defended in this special issue.

A Starting Point for the Discussions

We start off with the concept of empathy in the social cognitive neurosciences. The major growth of interest in empathy is largely due to a recent debate in this field. Previously, in the late nineteenth and first half to middle of the twentieth century, it was an important term in psychology, hermeneutics, and phenomenology. Later on, interest in the concept spread to developmental psychology as well. But the currently ongoing debate received its initial impetus from the question how far mind reading and empathizing are different faculties and how far they may not be completely separable (Singer 2006).

Basically speaking, both faculties are about understanding the other, either cognitively or emotionally. What are the intentions of the other? What are his or her wishes, beliefs, or deductions? These questions belong to the mind reading side, whereas understanding the other‘s emotional state belongs to the other side: the capacity of empathy.

Nonetheless, despite these clear cut definitions, there are also concepts such as the affective theory of mind that is also called cognitive empathy. The rationale for this distinction is that empathy is based on understanding the affective states of others.

Another question that one might consider before reading the assembled articles on empathy is whether empathy has to be a process leading to a conscious state. We advise the reader to bring to mind the definition of empathy in his or her own research perspective before reading the articles presented here. Whether one agrees or disagrees with many of the arguments exchanged and discussed in the following articles and commentaries will depend on which definition of empathy one already has in mind. Hence, a reflection on one’s own implicit or explicit definition might lead one to reconsider one’s initial assumptions. Whatever the case, it will certainly help one to understand how different disciplines take divergent approaches to the subject.

One might also bear in mind that the notions of understanding and empathy to be found in the long lasting philosophical hermeneutic tradition have been used to differentiate between the sciences and the humanities. Explaining was considered to be the method of the sciences, whereas understanding and empathy were the methods of the humanities. This involves the assumption of a deep dualism, and one should be cautious about claiming a particular term for one or the other discipline and tradition without thoughtful reflection if one wishes to avoid stepping into the footprints of such dualisms.

Empathy as Embodied Capacity for Social Orientation

Coming from the humanities, we propose the following definition for empathy:

Empathy is a social feeling that consists in feelingly grasping or retracing the present, future, or past emotional state of the other; thus empathy is also called a vicarious emotion. (Vicarious: experienced in the imagination through the feelings or actions of another person.)

As a social feeling empathy is always shaped through cultural codes, which differently emphasize, modulate and train the capacity to “feel into“ another person’s emotions. The main function of this feelingly grasping is, we assume. orientation in social contexts. This can mean taking part in the precise emotional state that the other is in at a certain moment, namely: being happy when she is happy, scared when she is scared. and so forth.

But this does not have to be the case. Grasping the other’s emotional state, that is. adopting the other‘s emotional perspective, could also produce a different feeling or emotion in me than the one currently being experienced in the other. And even when the empathic adoption of the other’s perspective produces in me the same emotion as the other is having (or is fictively experiencing) at that very moment, it would not be the same emotion, because the self-other differentiation has not been overcome.

We want to make sure that we do not take empathy to mean the same as sympathy or pity. Both are, in our opinion, special forms of empathy that cover only a certain aspect of empathic processes. Whereas pity is the mode of feeling sorry for the other, sympathy is the mode of being in favor of the other. Both these feelings are ways of adopting an emotional perspective (as empathy is), but they cover only a special form of emotional perspective taking that is structured by the social bond or relation between the persons involved. Thus in social life, pity and sympathy are most likely to occur toward persons one is related to or who belong to one’s own ingroup, but less often toward outgroup members who are mostly perceived as being totally different, strange, or even malevolent, in short, as persons one can scarcely identify with.

Pity and compassion as particular kinds of empathy are deeply connected to social attachment. Frans de Waal (2009) conceives empathy as an evolved concern for others that is triggered through identification with these others. “Empathy’s chief portal is identification,” he argues, meaning that close social bonds increase, in a quasi-automatic way, the emotional responsiveness to others and thus the readiness to help and support fellow beings (de Waal. 2009, 2l3).

Continuing his line of argument, he stresses that empathy also needs a “turn off switch,” a mechanism to override and regulate automatic empathic responses. He considers that what constitutes this turn off switch of empathic processes is a lack of identification. What becomes evident here is that de Waal is implicitly equating pity and compassion with empathy, or he is conceiving them as the evolutionary basis of empathy. lf fellow beings harm or violate each other, as it is often the case in social reality, they must, according to de Waal’s model, have switched off their empathic capacity.

We deliberately take another position here: We conceive empathy as an evolutionarily grounded capacity to adopt an emotional perspective, to implicitly “feel into” the other regardless of the behavioral outcome. This may be directed toward ingroup members and be prosocial and supporting, or toward outgroup members and be destructive and harming.

We make a point of affectively grasping the emotional state of another, but that does not mean to draw a definite line between cognitive understanding and emotional grasping. There are good reasons to stick to a narrower notion when it comes to defining empathy as a “feelingly grasping” if one wants to make sense of notions such as vicarious emotion or of the history of the notion that started with Einfühlung (feeling into). However, the specific conceptual perspective one takes depends very strongly on one’s research traditions and research interest.

When it comes to the relation between empathic perspective taking and the cognitive perspective taking that is related to theory of mind (TOM), we cannot judge the discussions amongst neuropsychologists regarding whether or not these are completely different kinds of perspective taking, and whether or not these processes take place in different brain areas. However, defining the term according to an established tradition, we take empathy to be the emotional perspective taking; and mind reading (in TOM), to be the cognitive perspective taking. Nonetheless, on a purely conceptual level, one might have to admit that the two faculties cannot be separated altogether, because in cognitive perspective taking, the subject who is taking the perspective of another being has to be at least interested in the other being, and that means to care for the other in some way. First, you have to consider the other as an equal in a certain way, as a fellow human being, for instance, or at least as a creature able to feel. Second. you have to consider the other and the other‘s actions as relevant to yourself. You have to be somehow interested in order to be either emotionally involved or curious about the other’s intentions. Therefore, both cases, empathy and Tom, start with the same precondition:

You have to consider the other as being the same as you and of being your counterpart in a particular situation; there has to be a tacit analogy between the subject adopting the other‘s perspective and the other whose perspective is being taken, be it emotional or cognitive.

When specifying what we meant by empathy, we wrote of feelingly grasping or feelingly retracing something; this already suggests that the processes of feeling and of comprehending cannot always be separated clearly. And this makes empathic acts particularly interesting, because they resist the artificial dualisms in the philosophy of mind that still emboss philosophical, scientific, and everyday speech.

To recap briefly, empathy, as the embodied (or bodily grounded) capacity to feel one‘s way into others, to take part in the other’s affective situation, and adopt the other‘s perspective, is a fundamentally social capacity. It allows one to grasp the other’s intentions and thus to engage in meaningful social interaction. Empathy is a crucial means of social communication. It is not just an emotional contagiousness: in which one remains concentrated on oneself.

However, this definition of empathy fails to specify whether this comprehension involves a kind of simulation or imitation of the minds of others. In many of the following contributions, we shall see what important role simulation plays in the debates on a theoretical model of empathy.

Outline of the Contributions

The following six articles are written by distinguished scholars on empathy who come from five different disciplines. Each contribution presents recent research findings and theoretical reflections about the phenomenon of empathy within the respective discipline and simultaneously gives an insight into some currently ongoing debates on the subject within as well as across disciplinary boundaries. The following outline might already give a first impression about this.

Social Cognitive Neuroscience: Cognitive and Affective Empathy

The neuropsychologist Henrik Walter (2012) places his accent on understanding the emotional or affective states of another human being. Furthermore, he views understanding as a purely cognitive concept in this context that suggests making deductions and reasoning. Because Walter concentrates on this approach to understanding the affective states of others, conceptions such as affective theory of mind or cognitive empathy are also highly relevant for his ideas on the capacities for understanding other human beings. Whether this empathy is due to a cognitive faculty or an affective one is not the focus of this distinction. Empathy is, in this case, defined only by the understanding of the emotional state of the other and not by whether the process of understanding is either an affective one or a cognitive one. If it is a cognitive one, it is called cognitive empathy or affective theory of mind; if it is an affective one, it is called affective empathy.

Walter presents this conceptual analysis before linking it both to findings in empirical research investigating the neural basis of empathy and to data on the possible neurogenetic basis of empathy. The tradition followed by Walter when differentiating between TOM, cognitive empathy, and affective empathy is one developed in psychology since the late 1950s. It defined empathy as an emotional or affective phenomenon, and introduced the notion of cognitive empathy as a cognitive faculty or “intellectual or imaginative apprehension of another‘s condition or state of mind” (Hogan, 1969, 308). The main topic within this research tradition is the accuracy of our ability to conceive the other’s condition. Cognitive empathy is not defined in terms of shared emotions but in terms of knowing another’s state of mind by inferential processing (Ickes, 1997).

Social Cognitive Neuroscience again: Neural Overlap and Self-Other Overlap Stephanie Preston and Alicia Hofelich’s contribution (2012) comes from one of the most rapidly growing research fields on empathy, namely, the social neuroscience of empathy. Preston and Frans de Waal (2002) are well known in this field for having developed the perception-aclion model of empathy. This proposes that observing an emotion in someone else generates that emotion in the observer. Preston and Hofelich use this model to argue in favor of a neural overlap in the early stages of processing all cases of social understanding such as cognitive empathy, empathic accuracy, emolion contagion, sympathy. and helping behavior. The self-other overlap in empathy occurs only at a later state of processing. They offer some criteria for differentiating between neural overlap. subjeclive resonance, and personal distress. Because the self-other overlap is crucial for the definition of empathy. this represents an important attempt to seek empirical support for a theoretical differentiation. In addition, it offers a taxonomy of the different cases of social understanding that are supposed to be highlighted by a biological view of empathy.

The academic challenge of this undertaking lies not least in the attempt to show that there is some such thing as a self-other overlap on the neural level, and that it is not just to be found on the subjective level on which the conceptual capacities of a human being are already“at work.”

In order to engage in an empathic process, the empathic subject has to be able to differentiate between his or her own affective states and those of the being he or she is being empathic with, be this a conscious process, as is quite often the case on the subjective level, or a subconscious process on the neural level. This is also a necessary precondition for cognitive empathy and sympathy, but not for emotional contagion. Scientific research on the subjective overlap, that is, the sharing of an emotion, is the task of psychology. But in order to grasp this point on a biological level one has to avoid the subjective perspective. This is done by defining the self-other overlap via the notion of the activation of a personal representation in order to experience an observed state or action, and not via the notion of the activation of a personal representation when acting oneself or being in the state oneself. The overlap in representation on the neural level has to be reflected by a spatial overlap of brain activation between imitation and observation of facial emotional expression (on the subjective level, one is speaking about “sharing another’s emotional or intentional state”).

The process of observing or imagining someone else in a situation might therefore be crucial for determining whether a neural representation of an emotion is the representation of the emotion in somebody else, and therefore an empathic reaction, or whether it is the neural representation of one‘s own emotional process.

Developmental Psychology: The Self-Other Distinction

The developmental psychologist Doris Bischof Kohler (20l2) concentrates on the subjective level of empathy. She defines empathy as understanding and sharing the emotional state of another person. This definition implies not only that an empathic capacity is linked strongly to cognitive capacities, but also that the self-other distinction is crucial for the notion of empathy.

Bischof Kohler’s investigations on empathy are therefore related to her research on the symbolic representation of the self in imagination (self recognition). Her findings reveal that only children who are able to recognize themselves exhibit empathic behavior. This does not imply that self recognition leads to empathic behavior, but that it is a necessary precondition for empathy. And as her data show, this mode of self recognition does not have to be a kind of metarepresentation or conscious self reflection that the theory of mind predicts to first emerge only in 4 year olds. This can explain not only why empathy is already observable in 2 year old children but also why the mere recognition of a mark on one’s cheek while looking in a mirror is a transitional state to self recognition that is not linked to empathy. Her conclusion from these results is that “the capacity to empathize is an effect of maturation rather than socialization.”

Philosophy: Empathy and Simulation Theory

The philosopher Karsten Stueber (20l2) presents a model of the cognitive and afective understanding and knowledge of another human being’s mind, and demonstrates the importance of empathy for social cognition. He is well known as a representative of simulation Iheory-an approach that fits quite well with empirically based theories on empathy. In this article, he extends this basic approach by replying to some narrativist criticism. His main focus is on the cognitive mechanisms that allow us to gain knowledge of other minds and therefore on social cognition and on our understanding of individual agency. One challenge for such an approach is to give a theoretical account of resonance phenomena and projection mechanisms that does not presuppose some kind of Canesian subject who remains in a solitary state of skepticism about the existence of other minds. While insisting on the imponance of our sensitivity to differences between ourselves and other human beings, he introduces the importance of the other on the two levels distinguished in the simulation approach. The first level is the basic level of neuronal resonance phenomena. It is activated automatically by observation of the bodily activities and the accompanying bodily and facial expressions of other beings (basic empathy). The second level is the more developed stage, namely, the re enactment of the thoughts and reasonings of another human being as a rational agent (re enactive empathy). On this level, Stueber admits that in order to understand the actions of another person, we do not necessarily have to appeal to his or her beliefs and desires, but that the knowledge of the other‘s character traits or the other’s role in various social contexts could be equally important. By accepting this possibility, he opens up his model not only to some narrativist proposals for understanding the actions of others but also to the social, historical, or cultural contexts that one might have to consider in order to understand the actions of another human being. He insists, however, that this information would make neither the re enactment nor the simulation superfluous, because pretend beliefs and pretend desires are at the core of the imaginative perspective taking that is necessary for empathy.

Anthropology: The Cultural Embedednass of Empathy

The opening up of simulation theory toward an integration of personal, historical, and cultural information makes a philosophical approach like Stueber‘s attractive for a cultural and social anthropologist such as Douglas Hollan (2012). He takes up the distinction between basic empathy and re enactive empathy, although calling the latter complex empathy instead. This allows him not only to accept embodied forms of imitation and attunement as biologically evolved capacities, but also to concentrate on the more language bound evaluations and adjustments that have evolved culturally and historically. Hollan emphasizes that one has to be acquainted with the latter and with the personal background of a person in order to understand why he or she is in a certain emotional state. And, as he points out, this is necessary in order to be able to be empathic, because one has to understand not only that a person is in a certain emotional state but also why. In other words, one needs to have a cenain amount of knowledge about the normative and moral standards of a culture or society before one can evaluate the meaning of social situations and forms of behavior and comprehend another’s feeling state within the context of social circumstances. In short, empathic processes cannot be detached from the social and cultural contexts in which they are embedded. One way to narrow down the range of the meaning of the definition of empathy is to delete the need to understand why the person is in the state from the definition, leaving only the understanding that a person is in a certain emotional state.

The heuristic differentiation between basic empathy and complex empathy is in line with the ability to determine that another person is in a cenain emotional state and to understand the experience of the other. By reporting important research results on empathy in social anthropology, Douglas Hollan demonstrates not only how far some of the main features of empathy seem to be, by some means, universal, but also how far the studies on empathy need to be refined in light of some findings from anthropological research.

Intercultural findings on empathy reveal that the blending of feelingly perspective taking and cognitive perspective taking is one of the constant features of empathy. whereas the differentiation into “me” and “the other“ seems to be less distinct in empathic like responses in many non Western societies. Another finding of Hollan‘s research is that in the Pacific region, empathy is not a neutral engagement in the understanding of the emotional state of the other, but more like a sympathy that is linked very frequently to a positive attunement with that other person. And this positive attunement is expressed as an active doing rather than a passive experience.

Alongside these research results, he has noticed another, rather opposite tendency: a widespread fear that an empathic like knowledge could be used to harm others. This is why in many parts of the world-from the lndo Pacific to Latin America or Nonhem Canadapeople try to mask their faces. that is, to not express their inner feelings and thoughts but always show a “bright” face and not disclose their vulnerabilities. This phenomenon points to the fact discussed above that empathy is not linked automatically to compassion and helping attitudes, but might also be used by enemies or individual psychopaths as a way to find out how to harm the other.

Among the most challenging research desiderata that result from anthropological findings is the call for more studies on the complex interrelationship between the culture specific moral and situational contexts mediating the expression of empathy on the one side and the dispositions (or traits) that individuals develop to experience and display empathy on the other. Put succinctly, all cultures have some people who are likely to empathize more and others who are likely to empathize less. Hollan considers one of the most demanding tasks facing future research is to investigate how far personality traits interact with the culturally different modes of conceptualizing empathy.

Literary Studies: A Three-Step Model of Human Empathy

The findings on empathy filters introduced by the ethologist and primatologist Frans de Waal might well have been one of the starting points for the theory on empathy proposed by Fritz Breithaupt (2012), a scholar of German studies. As already mentioned. de Waal (2009, 213) has argued that “empathy needs both a filter that makes us select what we react to, and a turn off switch.” Breithaupt shares the hidden agenda for this approach, namely, that human beings are hyperempalhic, without equating pity and compassion with empathy. He has developed a three step model of human empathy that should account for the individual and cultural variety in empathy that also interests Douglas Hollan. According to Breithaupt’s theory, individual and cultural diferences are due to the control functions of blocking and channeling empathy.

These blucking mechanisms are important for a hyperempathic being (Step I) because of the costs accompanying such a social hyperactivity. As well as requiring energy, the danger of self loss might be another cost of empathy in this approach. This possibly ongoing activity therefore needs to be blocked (Step 2). Neurobiologists such as Marco lacobini (2008) have therefore proposed some kind of “super mirror neurons“ that control the mirror neurons. But, because Breithaupt is dealing with more conscious processes, he is hinting at cultural techniques and learning without excluding the possible existence of evolutionarily evolved mechanisms as well. Once the blocking mechanisms are in action, a third step is needed in order to be able to experience empathy at all (Step 3). This step consists in the techniques to circumvent the blocking mechanisms.

The technique to unblock the empathy inhibition on which Breithaupt is concentrating is side raking in a three person setting of empathy. The reason why he turns to a three person instead of a two person model is linked to the observation that hyperempathy in human beings goes hand in hand with hypersociabiliry, and a two person model might be too narrow to encompass this. The side taking process is deliberate: A person decides who’s side to take. After making this decision, empathy emerges (or returns), and it maintains and strengthens the initial choice, because empathy allows emotions to be released that confirm the decision. Breithaupt points out explicitly that the side taking is not involved in empathy itself (as it is in sympathy), but that it is rather “external” to it. The advantage of this model lies in the ability to combine cognitive elements in perspective taking with a caring attitude that might evolve when the side taking decision is followed by empathy.

The ambition of this special issue with its six articles from several disciplines is to give an overview on recent research on empathy. The twelve commentaries not only contribute greatly to achieving this aim but also help significantly to identify the hotspots in ongoing disciplinary and interdisciplinary debates.

Neurophysiological Effects of Trait Empathy in Music Listening

Zachary Wallmark, Choi Deblieck and Marco Iacaboni.

The social cognitive basis of music processing has long been noted, and recent research has shown that trait empathy is linked to musical preferences and listening style.

Does empathy modulate neural responses to musical sounds?

We designed two functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) experiments to address this question. In Experiment 1, subjects listened to brief isolated musical timbres while being scanned. In Experiment 2, subjects listened to excerpts of music in four conditions (familiar liked (FL)/disliked (FD) and unfamiliar liked (UL)/disliked (UD).

For both types of musical stimuli, emotional and cognitive forms of trait empathy modulated activity in sensorimotor and cognitive areas: in the first experiment, empathy was primarily correlated with activity in Supplementary motor area (SMA),

Inferior frontal gyrus (IFG)

and Insula;

In Experiment 2, empathy was mainly correlated wth activity in prefrontal,

temporo-parietal

and reward areas, Taken together. these findings reveal the interactions between bottom-up and top-down mechanisms of empathy in response to musical sounds, in line with recent findings from other cognitive domains.

INTRODUCTION

Music is a portal into the interior lives of others. By disclosing the affective and cognitive states of actual or imagined human actors, musical engagement can function as a mediated form of social encounter, even when listening by ourselves. It is commonplace for us to imagine music as a kind of virtual “persona,” with intentions and emotions of its own: we resonate with certain songs just as we would with other people, while we struggle to identify with other music.

Arguing from an evolutionary perspective, it has been proposed that the efficacy of music as a technology of social affiliation and bonding may have contributed to its adaptive value, As Leman indicates: “Music can be conceived as a Virtual social agent… listening to music can be seen as a socializing activity in the sense that it may train the listener’s self in social attuning and empathic relationships.” In short, musical experience and empathy are psychological neighbors.

The concept of empathy has generated sustained interest in recent years among researchers seeking to better account for the social and affective valence of musical experience; it is also a popular topic of research in social neuroscience. However, the precise neurophysiological relationship between music processing and empathy remains unexplored. Individual differences in trait empathy modulate how we process social stimuli, does empathy modulate music processing as well?

(Valence, as used in psychology, especially in discussing emotions, means the intrinsic attractiveness/”good”-ness (positive valence) or averseness/”bad”-ness (negative valence) of an event, object, or situation. The term also characterizes and categorize specific emotions. For example, emotions popularly referred to as “negative”, such as anger and fear, have negative valence. Joy has positive valence. Positively valenced emotions are evoked by positively valenced events, objects, or situations. The term is also used to describe the hedonic tone of feelings, affect, certain behaviors (for example, approach and avoidance), goal attainment or nonattainment, and conformity with or violation of norms. Ambivalence can be viewed as conflict between positive and negative valence carriers.)

If we consider music through a social psychological lens, it is plausible that individuals with a greater dispositional capacity to empathize with others might also respond to music’s social stimulus differently on a neurophysiological level by preferentially engaging brain networks previously found to be involved in trait empathy.

In this article, we test this hypothesis in two experiments using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). In Experiment 1, we explore the neural correlates of trait empathy (as measured using the Interpersonal Reactivity Index) as participants listened to isolated instrument and vocal tones. In Experiment 2. excerpts of music in four conditions (familiar liked/disliked. unfamiliar liked/disliked) were used as stimuli. allowmg us to examine correlations of neural activity with trait empathy in naturalistic listening contexts.

Measuring Trait Empathy

Trait empathy refers to the capacity for empathic reactions as a stable feature of personality. Individual differences in trait empathy have been shown to correlate with prosocial behavior and situational “state” empathic reactions to others.

Trait empathy is commonly divided into two components: emotional empathy is the often unconscious tendency to share the emotions of others, while cognitive empathy is the ability to consciously detect and understand the internal states of others.

There are a number of scales to measure individual differences in trait empathy currently in use. including the Toronto Empathy Questionnaire (TEQ). Balanced Emotional Empathy Scale (BEES). Empathy Quotient (EQ). Questionnaire of Cognitive and Affective Empathy (QCAE) and Interpersonal Reactivity INDEX (IRI). Here we use the IRI, which is the oldest and most widely validated of these scales and frequently used in neurophysiological studies of empathy.

The IRI consists of 28 statements evaluated on a 5 point Likert scale (from “does not describe me well” to “describes me very well”). It is subdivided into four subscales meant to tap different dimensions of self reported emotional and cognitive empathy. Emotional empathy is represented by two subscales: the empathic concern scale (hereafter EC) assesses trait level “other oriented” sympathy towards misfortunate others. and the personal distress scale (PD) measures “self oriented” anxiety and distress towards misfortunate others. The two cognitive empathy subscales «most of perspedive taking (PT). or the tendency to see oneself from another’s perspective, and fantasy (PS). the tendency to imaginatively project oneself into the situations of fictional characters.

Music and Empathy

Theories of empathy have long resonated with the arts. The father of the modern concept of empathy, philosopher Theodor Lipps originally devised the notion of Emfühlung (“feeling into”) in order to explain aesthetic experience. Contemporary psychological accounts have invoked mirror neurons as a possible substrate supporting Lipps’s “inner imitation” theory of the visual and performing arts. However. the incorporation of psychological models of empathy in empirical music research is still in its early stages, Empathy remains an ambiguous concept in general. but applications to music can appear doubly vexed in an influential formulation.

Esenherg et al (1991) define empathy as. “an emotional response that stems from another’s emotional state or condition and is congruent with the other’s emotional state or condition.” Aspects of this definition. though. might seem incongruous when applied to music. which is inanimate and not capable of possessing an emotional “state”. To connect music processing to trait empathy. therefore. it is first necessary to determine the extent to which music comprises a social stimulus, who or what do we empathize with when listening to music?

Scherer and Lentner proposed that empathy toward music is often achieved via identification and sympathy with the lived experiences and expressive intentions of composers and performers. Corroborating this view, in a large web based experiment Egermann and McAdams found that “empathy for the musician” moderated between recognized and induced emotions in music: the greater the empathy. the more likely an individual was to exhibit a strong affective response when listening.

In a related study Wollner presented participants with video of a string quartet performance in three conditions audio/visual, visual only. and audio only and reported a significant correlation between trait empathy measures and perceived expressiveness in both visual conditions (music only condition was non significant), leading him to conclude: “since music is the audible outcome of actions, empathic responses to the performer‘s movements may enhance the enjoyment of music.“ Similarly, Taruiti et al found correlations between the EC and FS scales of the IRI and accuracy in emotion recognition relative to musicians’ self reported expressive encodings in an audio only task.

A music specific manifestation of trait empathy was proposed by Kreutz et al, who defined “music empathizmg“ as a cognitive style of processmg music that privileges emotional recognition and experience over the tendency to analyze and predict the rules of musical structure (or. “music systematizing”). Garrido and Schubert compared this “music empathy” scale alongside the IRI EC subscale in a study exploring individual differences in preference for sad music. They found that people who tend towards music empathizing are more likely to enjoy sad music; however. high trait empathy was not significantly correlated with enjoyment of sad music. This would seem to suggest that the music empathizing cognitive style differs from general trait empathy,

A number of other studies have investigated the relationship between trait empathy and enjoyment of sad music using the IRI. In a series of experiments. Vuoskoski and Eerola reported statistically significant correlations between EC and FS subscales and self reported liking for sad and tender music. Similarly, Kawakami and Katahora found that FS and PT were associated with preference for and intensity of emotional reactions to sad music among children.

There is evidence that musical affect is often achieved through mechanisms of emotional empathy. According to this theory, composers and performers encode affective gestures into the musical signal, and listeners decode that signal by way of mimetic, mirroring processes; musical expression is conveyed transparently as affective bodily motions are internally reenacted in the listening process. Shubert, in his Common Coding Model of Prosocial Behavior Processing, suggests that musical and social processing draw upon shared neural resources: music. in this account, is a social stimulus capable of recruiting empathy systems, including the core cingulate paracingulate supplementary motor area (SMA) insula network, along with possible sensorimotor, paralimbic and limbic representations. The cognitive empathy component, which can be minimal, is involved primarily in detecting the aesthetic context of listening, enabling the listener to consciously bracket the experience apart from the purely social. This model may help account for the perceived “visuality” of musical experience, whereby music is commonly heard as manifesting the presence of an imagined other.

In sum, trait empathy appears to modulate self reported affective reactions to music. There is also peripheral psychophysiological evidence that primed situational empathy may increase emotional reactivity to music. It is plausible that such a relationship is supported by shared social cognitive mechanisms that enable us to process music as a social stimulus; however, this hypothesis has not yet been explicitly tested at the neurophysiological level.

Neural Correlates of Trait Empathy

Corroborating the bipartite structure of trait empathy that appears in many behavioral models of empathy, two interrelated but distinct neural “routes” to empathy have been proposed, one associated with emotional contagion and the other with cognitive perspective taking. Emotional empathy is conceived as a bottom up process that enables “feeling with someone else” through perception action coupling of affective cues. Such simulation or “mirroring” models maintain that empathy is subserved by the activation of similar sensorimotor, paralimbic and limbic representations both when one observes another and experiences the same action and emotional state oneself. This proposed mechanism is generally considered to be pre reflective and phylogenetically ancient; it has also been linked behaviorally to emotional contagion, or the propensity to “catch” others’ feeling states and unconsciously co experience them. For example. several imaging studies have found evidence for shared representation of observed/experienced pain in anterior cingulate and anterior insula, as well as somatosensory cortex. Similarly, disgust for smells and tastes has been shown to recruit the insula during both perception and action, and insula has been proposed as a relay between a sensorimotor fronto parietal circuit with mirror properties and the amygdala in observation and imitation of emotional facial expressions. There is also evidence that insula functions similarly in music induced emotions, particularly involving negative valence.

In contrast to emotional empathy, trait cognitive empathy has been conceived as a deliberative tendency to engage in top down, imaginative transpositions of the self into the “other’s shoes,” with concomitant reliance upon areas of the brain associated with theory-of-mind, executive control, and contextual appraisal, including medial, ventral and orbital parts of the prefrontal cortex; somatomotor areas; temporoparietal junction; and precuneus/postenor cingulate. As implied in the functional overlap between certain emotional and cognitive empathy circuits, some have argued that the two routes are neither hierarchical nor mutually exclusive: cognitive perspective taking is premised upon emotional empathy, though it may, in turn, exert top down control over contagion circuits, modifying emotional reactivity in light of contextual cues and more complex social appraisals.

Brain studies have converged upon the importance of the human mirror neuron system in action understanding, imitation and empathy, and has been demonstrated in multiple sensorimotor domains, including the perception of action sounds. Mirror properties were initially reported in the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) and the inferior parietal lobule (IPL); consistent with simulation theories of trait empathy. Moreover, activity in these and other sensorimotor mirror circuits has been found to correlate with IRI scales in a variety of experimental tasks, including viewing emotional facial expressions; and video of hands injected with a needle. That is, high empathy people tend to exhibit greater activation in mirror regions during the observation of others. Simulation mechanisms also appear to underpin prosocial decision making.

Implication of inferior frontal and inferior parietal mirror neuron areas is not a universal finding in the empathy literature, and some have suggested that it may reflect specific socially relevant tasks or stimulus types, not empathy in and of itself. However, evidence for mirror properties in single cells of the primate brain now exists in medial frontal and medial temporal cortex, dorsal premotor and primary motor cortex, lateral intraparietal area, and ventral intraparietal area. This means that in brain imaging data the activity of multiple brain areas may potentially be driven by cells with mirror properties.

In addition to studies using visual tasks, auditory studies have revealed correlations between mirror neuron activity and trait empathy. Gazzola et al, for instance, reported increased premotor and somatosensory activity associated with PT during a manual action sound listening task. A similar link was observed between IFG and PD scores while participants listened to emotional speech prosody. To date, however, no studies have investigated whether individual differences in empathy modulate processing of more socially complex auditory stimuli, such as music.

Study Aim

To investigate the neural substrates underlying the relationship between trait empathy and music. we carried out two experiments using fMRI.

In Experiment 1, we focused on a Single low level attribute of musical sound timbre, or “tone color”, to investigate the effects of empathy on how listeners process isolated vocal and instrumental sounds outside of musical context.

We tested two main hypotheses:

First, we anticipated that trait empathy (measured with the IRI) would be correlated with increased recruitment of empathy circuits even when listening to brief isolated sounds out of musical context (Gazzola et al).

Second, following an embodied cognitive view of timbre perception (Wallmark et al), we hypothesized that subjectively and acoustically ”noisy” timbral qualities would preferentially engage the emotional empathy system among higher empathy listeners. Abrasive. noisy acoustic features in human and many non human mammal vocalizations are often signs of distress, pain, or aggression (Isai et al): such state cues may elicit heighted responses among people with higher levels of trait EC.

To explore the relationship between trait empathy and music processing, in Experiment 2 participants passively listened to excerpts of self selected and experimenter selected “liked” and “disliked” music in familiar and unfamiliar conditions while being scanned. Musical preference and familiarity have been shown to modulate neural response. Extending previous research on the neural mechanisms of empathy, we predicted that music processing would involve circuitry shared with empathic response in non musical contexts (Schubert).

Unlike Experiment 1, we had no a priori hypotheses regarding modulatory effects of empathy specific to each of the four music conditions However, we predicted in both experiments that emotional empathy scales (EC and FD) would be associated with regions of the emotional empathy system in music listening, including sensorimotor. paralimbic and limbic areas, while cognitive empathy scales (PT and FS) would primarily be correlated With activity in prefrontal areas implicated in previous cognitive empathy studies (Singer and Lamm).

Results

Experiment 1 demonstrated that trait empathy is correlated With Increased activation of circuitry often associated with emotional contagion, including sensorimotor areas and insula, in the perception of isolated musical timbres. FS and EC also appear to be sensitive to the affective connotations of the stimuli. Timbre is arguably the most basic and quickly processed building block of music. Though sufficient to recruit empathy areas, these brief stimuli do not, however, constitute “music” per sci

In Experiment 2, we turned our focus to more naturalistic stimuli including excerpts of music selected in advance by participants in order to explore the effect of trait empathy on the processing of music.

DISCUSSION

The present study demonstrates that trait empathy is correlated with neurophysiological differences in music processing. Music has long been conceived as a social stimulus. Supporting this view, our study offers novel evidence that neural circuitry involved in trait empathy is active to a greater degree in empathic individuals during perception of both simple musical tones and full musical excerpts. Individual variances in empathy are reflected in differential recruitment of core empathy networks during music listening; specifically. IRI subscales were found to correlate with activity in regions associated with both emotional (e.g.. sensorimotor regions, insular and cingulate cortex) and cognitive empathy (cg, PFC. TPI) during passive listening tasks

Our main hypotheses were continued, though with an unexpected twist regarding the two putative empathy types (at least as structured by the MU), Both experiments seem to suggest interactions between bottom up and top down processes (indexed in our study by both IRI scores and activity in neural systems) in empathy modulated music listening. This is in line with recent findings in prosocial decision making studies. Stimulus type, however, seems associated with different patterns of neural systems engagement.

In Experiment 1, sensorimotor areas were more frequently modulated by trait empathy in the processing of musical timbre: conversely. in Experiment 2, cognitive areas were more frequently modulated by trait empathy in the processmg of (famillar) music. Together this suggests that, contrary to our initial hypothesis for Experiment 2, modulation of neural activity by empathy was driven more by stimulus type than by empathy type; that is. the emotional empathy subscale (BC) was no more selective to emotional contagion circuitry than cognitive empathy scales (PT and FS), and vice versa (the PD scale did not reveal any significant correlations with brain activity. In what follows, we interpret these results and discuss their implications.

Empathy-Modulated Sensorimotor Engagement in Timbre Processing

Using isolated 2-s instrument and vocal tones as stimuli, Experiment 1 found that the four IRI subscales modulated response to timbre. First, we found that cognitive perspective was correlated with activity in motor areas SMA for A0: and SI and anterior cingulate (ACC).

This finding is in line with numerous studies suggesting a role for ACC and SI in emotional empathy; it also replicates a result of Gazzola et al 2006. who reported a correlation of somatomotor activity and PT scores in an action sound listening task. Activity in these regions may suggest a sensorimotor simulation process whereby high PT individuals imitate internally some aspect of the production of these sounds, This result could be explained in light of Cox’s 2016 “mimetic hypothesis,” according to which music is understood by way of covert or overt motor reenactments of sound producing physical gestures. It is quite conceivable that people who are inclined to imagine themselves from others’ perspectives also tend to take up the physical actions implied by others’ musical sounds, whether a smooth and gentle voice, a growled saxophone, or any other musical sound reflecting human actions.

It is intriguing, however, that PT was not implicated in the processing of positive or negative valence. One might assume that perspective takers possess a neural preference for “good“ sounds: for example, one study reported activation of larynx control areas in the Rolandic operculum while subjects listened to pleasant music (but not unpleasant), suggesting subvocalization only to positively valenced music (K elsch et al) Our results, however. indicate that PT is not selective to valence in these sensorimotor areas.

FS also revealed motor involvement (SMA) in the task > baseline contrast. Unlike PT, FS appeared to be sensitive to both positive and negative valence of timbres: we found activity in left TH and Broca‘s area of the IFG associated with positively valenced timbres, and temporal, parietal and prefrontal activations associated with disliked timbres. TPI is an important structure for theory of mind. Together with Broca‘s area, a well studied language and voice specific motor region that has been implicated in emotional empathy. It is plausible to suggest that individuals who are prone to fantasizing may exhibit a greater tendency to attribute mental states to the virtual human agents responsible for making musical sounds, and that this attribution would be more pronounced for positively valenced stimuli.

As hypothesized. EC was correlated with activation in a range of areas previously implicated in empathy studies, including IPL, IPG and SMA, along With SI, STG. cerebellum and AIC. It was also sensitive to negative valence: noisy timbres were processed with greater involvement from SMA in individuals with higher EC. EC is an “other oriented” emotional scale measuring sympathy or compassion towards the misfortune of others. Since noisy, distorted qualities of vocal timbre are an index of generally high arousal, negatively valenced affective states, we theorize that individuals with higher trait EC exhibited greater motor attunement owing to the ecological urgency typically signaled by such sound events.

In short, we usually deploy harsh vocal timbres when distressed or endangered (e.g., screaming or shouting), not during affectively positive or neutral low arousal states, and high empathy people are more likely to pick up on and simulate the affective motor implications of others in distress. Though our sensitivity to the human voice is especially acute, researchers have hypothesized that instrumental timbre can similarly function as a “superexpressive voice” via acoustic similarities to emotional vocal expression. Our result would seem to support this theory, as motor response appears to encode the combined effects of noisy tones, both vocal and instrumental.

It is also worth noting, as might be expected given the above, that noisy voice produced a unique signature of activation among high FS and EC participants relative to the normal vocal stimuli: FS modulated processing of the noisy voice in SII and IPL, while EC was selective to noisy vocal sounds in the SMA and primary motor cortex. This result appears to be at odds with other studies of vocal affect sensitivity that report motor mimetic selectivity for pleasant vocalizations. It is likely that individual variances in empathy (plus other mediating factors) predispose listeners to differing orientations towards others’ affective vocalizations, with empathic listeners more likely to “catch” the motor affective implications of aversive sounds than low empathy people, who might only respond to sounds they find pleasant while tuning out negatively valenced vocalizations.

Cox (2016) theorizes that music can afford listeners an “invitation” for motor engagement, which they may choose to accept or decline, Seen from this perspective, it is likely that individual differences in empathy play an important role in determining how we choose to respond to music’s motor invitations.

Regarding motor engagement across IRI subscales it is apparent that SMA is the most prominent sensorimotor area involved in empathy modulated processing of timbre. SMA is a frequently reported yet undertheorized part of the core empathy network; it has also been implicated in internally generated movement and coordination of action sequences, and has been shown in a single neuron study to possess mirror properties. Most relevant to the present study, moreover, SMA contributes to the vividness of auditory imagery, including imagery for timbre. Halpern et al and Lima et al attributed SMA activity in an auditory imagery task in part to subvocalization of timbral attributes, and the present study would seem to partially corroborate this explanation. We interpret this result as a possible instance of sensorimotor integration: SMA activity could reflect a basic propensity to link sounds with their associated actions, which are internally mirrored while listening. In accordance with this view, we would argue that people do not just passively listen to different qualities of musical timbre, they enact some of the underlying physical determinants of sound production, whether through subvocalization, biography specific act sound associations.

To summarize, sensorimotor areas have been implicated in many previous studies of emotional empathy, including IFG and IPL; “pain circuit” areas in AIC and ACC; and somatomotor regions. Interestingly. these precise regions dominated results of the Experiment 1 timbre listening task. This is true, moreover, for both emotional and cognitive scales: PT and FS, though often implicated in cognitive tasks, were found in this experiment to modulate SMA, SI, primary motor cortex, IPL, MC and IFG, well documented motor affective AREAS. We theorize that the contextual impoverishment and short duration of the timbre listening task (2-s isolated tones) may have largely precluded any genuine perspective taking or fantasizing from occurring, it is much harder to put oneself in the “shoes” of an single isolated voice or instrument, of course, than it is an affectively rich piece of actual music. However, even in the absence of conscious cognitive empathizing, which presumably would have been reflected in engagement of the cognitive empathy system, individuals with high trait PT and FS still showed selective activations of sensorimotor and affective relay circuits typically associated with emotional empathy. This could be interpreted to suggest that the two “routes” to empathy are not dissociated in music listening: although conscious PT in response to abbreviated auditory cues is unlikely, people who frequently imagine themselves in the positions of others also exhibit a tendency toward motor resonance in this basic listening task, even when musical context is missing.

Prefrontal and Reward Activation During Music Listening

Experiment 2 used 16-s excerpts of self and experimenter selected music to explore the effect of dispositional empathy on the processing of music in four conditions. familiar liked (FL), familiar disliked (FD), unfamiliar liked (UL), and unfamiliar disliked (UD). Participants consisted of individuals who reported regularly experiencing intense emotional reactions while listening to music. Musical liking is associated at the group level (ie. no IRI covariates), with left basal ganglia reward areas, and disliking with activity in right AIC, primary auditory cortex and prefrontal areas (OFC and VLPFC). Musical familiarity is associated with activation across a broad region of the cortex, subcortical areas, and cerebellum, including IPL. premotor cortex and the core empathy network, while unfamiliarity recruits only the SFG.

This robust familiarity effect is even more acute among high empathy listeners: after adding empathy covariates to our analysis, there were no regions that demonstrated an affect specific response after controlling for familiarity. This result is consistent with the literature in showing a large neurophysiological effect of familiarity on musical liking; it appears that trait empathy, as well, modulates responses to familiar music to a greater degree than unfamiliar music.

Contrary to expectations, activation in regions primarily associated with emotional empathy (e.g., sensorimotor areas, ACC, AIC) was not a major component in empathy modulated music processing. Instead. the most prominent activation sites for PT and EC scales were prefrontal, including medial, lateral, and orbital portions of the cortex, as well as TPJ. These regions are involved in executive control, regulation of emotions, mentalizing, contextual appraisal, and “enactment imagination”, and have figured prominently in many studies on the neurophysiology of cognitive empathy. Additionally, FS and EC results were characterized by dorsal striatum when participants listened to familiar music. This basal ganglia structure has been frequently reported in empathy studies but not often discussed; it has also long been associated with musical pleasure.

basal ganglia

Replicating this association, our results suggest that empathic people experience a higher degree of reward and motivation when listening to familiar music compared to lower empathy people.

PT was associated with left TPI in the task > baseline contrast. Activation of this region among perspective takers is consistent with studies implicating TPI in theory of mind and the merging of self and other (Lawrence et a1, 2006). The TPI was joined by posterior cingulate, cerebellum and superior prefrontal areas when listening to familiar liked music (FL > FD), the former two of which were also identified in a study on the neural bases of perspective taking. Interestingly, these results differ substantially from the PT correlations in Experiment 1, which were entirely sensorimotor. In the context of isolated musical sounds, PT results were interpreted as a reflection of covert imitation (or, enactive perspective taking): in contrast. however, it appears here that PT may reflect a more cognitively mediated, mental form of perspective taking, which conceivably extends beyond action perception coupling of musicians‘ affective motor cues to encompass contextual appraisal, assessments of the affective intent embodied in the music, and other executive functions.

In contrast to the prominent TPI and prefrontal activation associated with PT, FS results revealed activation of dorsal striatum (caudaie and putamen) and limbic areas (thalamus, hippocampus and amygdala). Activation of reward and emotion centers may suggest that fantasizers also tend to exhibit heightened positive emotional reactions to familiar music. Indeed, we found a moderate correlation between FS and preference ratings for familiar liked music, which may tentatively corroborate this claim. Moreover, structural brain studies have found that FS is associated with increased gray matter volume in hippocampus, an important memory area, perhaps also indicating enhanced encoding of familiar liked music among fantasizers.

The contrast in activation between the two IRI cognitive empathy scales (PT and FS) is notable, and may be attributed to the different aspects of empathy they were designed to assess. PT taps the tendency to imagine oneself in other people’s shoes, whereas FS captures the tendency to imagine oneself from the perspective of fictional characters. With this distinction in mind, one could surmise that the two scales also tap different views regarding the ontology of the musical agent: in this reading, people with high trait PT are more likely to take music as a social stimulus, i.e., as if it was a real or virtual human presence (with theory of mind, goals, beliefs), while high FS listeners are more likely to hear it as “fictional” from a social perspective, i.e., as a rewarding sensory stimulus with an attenuated grip on actual social cognition. Further research is called for to explore possible explanations for the differences in cognitive scales as reflected in music listening.

Turning finally to emotional empathy, we found that EC recruits prefrontal, reward and sensorimotor affective areas in music listening, and is likewise quite sensitive to familiarity. In the Familiar > Unfamiliar contrast, we found activation of cerebellum, IPL, DLPFC, IFG, DMPFC, amygdala, anterior paracingulate, dorsal striatum, OFC and lingual gyrus, and a variation on this general pattern for the Familiar liked > Unfamiliar liked and interaction contrasts. Activation of bilateral IPL and IFG is consistent with mirror accounts of empathy. Furthermore, the ACC, paracingulate, and areas that extend dorsally (SMA, DMPFC) have been proposed as the core of the empathy network: our result would seem to extend support for the primacy of this region using an experimental task that is not explicitly social in the manner of most empathy studies. Lastly, DLPFC is an important executive control area in cognitive empathy, and has been implicated in emotional regulation. Activation of this region may reflect top down control over affective responses to familiar music, both in terms of up regulation to liked music and down regulation to disliked (or possibly up regulation to negative stimuli, as Open minded empathic listeners try to “see something positive” in the disliked music), In further research, connectivity analysis between DLPFC and limbic/reward areas may help to specify the neurophysiological mechanisms underlying empathy modulated emotional regulation during music listening.

In addition to motor, cingulate and prefrontal activity, we found the recruitment of emotion and reward processing areas as a function of EC and musical familiarity: dorsal striatum (the whole extent of the caudate nucleus, plus thalamus) may reflect increased pleasure in response to familiar music among empathic listeners. It is not surprising that the reward system would show preferential activation to familiar music, as confirmed in the basic group Liked > Disliked contrast.

Prevalence of basal ganglia for both EC and FS suggests that trait empathy may effectively sensitize people to the music they already know. This even appears to be the case for disliked music, which showed dorsal striatum activation (along with OFC) in the Familiar disliked > Unfamiliar disliked contrast. This could be interpreted to indicate that empathic people may experience heightened musical pleasure even when listening to the music they self select as “hating,” provided it is familiar. By way of contrast. no striatum activation was found for any of the unfamiliar music conditions.

In concert with limbic circuitry, then, it is apparent that musical familiarity recruits a broad region of the affect reward system in high EC listeners.

Activation of inferior parts of the lingual gyrus and occipital lobe was another novel finding, and may also be linked to musical affect. These areas are associated with visual processing, including perception and recognition of familiar sights and emotional facial expressions, as well as visual imagery. It is reasonable to think that empathic listeners may be more prone to visual imagery while listening to familiar music. Visual responses are an important mechanism of musical affect more generally, and are a fairly reliable index of musical engagement and attention.

If high EC people are more susceptible to musical affect, as suggested by our results, they may also show a greater tendency towards visual imagery in music listening.

To be clear, we did not explicitly operationalize visual imagery in this study: in the future, it would be interesting to follow up on this result by comparing visual imagery and music listening tasks using the EC scale as a covariate.

The behavioral data resonate in interesting and sometimes contradictory ways with these imaging findings. We found that EC is strongly associated with preference for liked music and unfamiliar music, and negative responses to familiar disliked music. Results suggest that high EC people are more responsive to the affective components of music, as reflected in polarity of preference responses. EC was also associated with open mindedness to new music (i,e.. higher ratings for unfamiliar music), though imaging results for this contrast did not reach significance, and might appear to be contradicted by the clear familiarity effect discussed previously.

We must be cautious in the interpretation of these findings owing to the small sample size, but this resonance between behavioral and imaging evidence is nonetheless suggestive in demonstrating a role for EC in affective responsiveness to familiar music. This conclusion is broadly consistent With previous behavioral studies, especially regarding pleasurable responses to sad music.

In sum, the present results provide complementary neural evidence that involvement of prefrontal areas and limbic/basal ganglia in music listening covaries with individual trait differences in empathy, with sensorimotor engagement playing a smaller role.

How do we account for the prominence of cognitive, prefrontal areas in music listening but not musical timbre in isolation? It must be noted that a broad swath of the emotional empathy system was involved in the basic task > baseline contrast (used to mask all IRI covariates): in other words, it is clear that music in aggregate is processed with some level of sensorimotor, paralimbic, and limbic involvement, regardless the empathy level of the listeners or the valence/familiarity of the music. However, our results seem to suggest that empathic people tend to be more attuned to the attribution of human agency and affective intention in the musical signal. as indicated by preferential engagement of cognitive empathy networks including PFC (MPF and DLPFC) and TP), as well as reward areas.

In other words, what seems to best characterize the high empathy response to musical stimuli is the tendency to take an extra cognitive step towards identification with some agentive quality of the music, over and above the work of emotional contagion mechanisms alone.

Thus while patterns of neural resonance consistent with emotional contagion appear to be common to most experiences of music and were also found among high empathy participants in Experiment 1, activation of prefrontal cognitive empathy systems for the PT and EC scales may indicate the tendency of empathic listeners to try to “get into the heads” of composers, performers, and/or the virtual persona of the music. This top down process is effortful, imaginative, and self aware, in contrast to the automatic and pre reflective mechanisms undergirding emotional contagion. Accordingly, as suggested by Schubert, the involvement of cognitive systems may not strictly speaking be required for affective musical response, which can largely be accounted for by emotional contagion circuitry alone.

A number of studies have shown that mental imagery may be supported by sensorimotor and affective components without the contribution of prefrontal areas. Nevertheless, they could betoken a more social cognitive mode of listening, a deliberative attempt on the part of listeners to project themselves into the lived experience of the musical agent. This imaginative projection is more intense, understandably, for music that empathic people already know, and also appears to interact with musical preference.

General Implications

The present study has a number of implications for social and affective neuroscience, music psychology, and musicology. For neuroscientific empathy research, we demonstrate the involvement of the core empathy network and mirror neuron system outside of tasks that are explicitly social cognitive. Most studies use transparently social experimental tasks and stimuli to assess neural correlates of state and trait empathy; for example, viewing pictures or videos of other people.

This study demonstrates that musical sound. which is perhaps not an obvious social stimulus, can elicit neural responses consistent with theories of empathy. By domg so, this study highlights the potential value of operationalizing artistic and aesthetic experience as a window into social cognitive and affective processing, a perspective that is arguably the historical progenitor of contemporary empathy research.

For music psychology, this research has at least three main implications.

First, this study demonstrates that trait empathy may modulate the neurophysiology of music listening. Although there is mounting behavioral and psychophysiological evidence pointing to this conclusion, this is the first study to investigate the effects of empathy on the musical brain.

Second, this study confirms and extends empirical claims that music cognition is inextricably linked to social cognition. Our results suggest that aspects of affective music processing can be viewed as a specialized subprocess of general social affective perception and cognition. This may begin to explain the neural bases for how music can function as a “virtual social agent”.

Third, in demonstrating neural differences in music processing as a function of empathy, we highlight the possible significance of looking at other trait features when assessing the functional neural correlates of musical tasks and stimuli. Many neurophysiological music studies take only a few trait features into account in sampling procedures and analysis, most notably sex, age, and musical training: the latter has been well explored, but other factors such as personality factors and mood are not frequently addressed. Individual differences in music processing may relate to dispositional characteristics that can be captured by psychosocial questionnaires, indirect observational techniques, or other methods. Exploring the role of such trait variables in musical behaviors and brain processing could provide a more detailed and granular account of music cognition,

Finally, these results enrich the humanistic study of music in providing a plausible psychobiological account for the social valence of musical experience observed in diverse cultural and historical settings. As music theorist Clifton claims, “the ‘other’ need not be a person: it can be music.”

In a very rough sense, this study provides empirical support for this statement: areas implicated in trait empathy and social cognition also appear to be involved in music processing, and to a significantly greater degree for individuals with high trait empathy.

If music can function something like a virtual ”other,” then it might be capable of altering listeners‘ views of real others, thus enabling it to play an ethically complex mediating role in the social discourse of music. Indeed, musicologists have historically documented moments of tense cultural encounter wherein music played an instrumental role in helping one group to realize the other’s shared humanity.

Recent research would seem to provide behavioral ballast for this view: using an implicit association task,Vuoskoski et a showed that listening to the music of another culture could positively modulate attitudes towards members of that culture among empathic listeners. Though we do not in this study explicitly address whether music can alter empathic brain circuits, it is suggestive that certain attitudes toward musical sound may have behavioral and neural bases in individual differences in trait empathy.

Limitations

A few important limitations must be considered in interpreting these results, First, this study was correlational: no causative links can thus be determined in the relationship between music and trait empathy. In the future, it would be interesting to use an empathy priming paradigm in an MRI context to compare neurophysiological correlates of trait empathy with primed “state” empathy in music listening; this could provide a powerful method for disentangling possible differences in processing between dispositional attributes of empathy and contextual factors (e.g., socially conditioned attitudes about a performer, mood when listening).

As a corollary to the above, moreover, this study does not address whether our results are specific to music listening: perhaps high empathy people utilize more of these areas when performing other non musical yet not explicitly social tasks as well (eg. viewing abstract art). Additionally. we do not explore whether there could be other mediating trait factors in music processing besides empathy and sex: personality and temperament, for instance, have been shown to modulate responses to music.

Finally, this study will need to be replicated with a larger sample size, and with participants who do not self select based on strong emotional reactions to music, in order to strengthen the statistical power and generalizability of the results.

CONCLUSION

In two experiments using fMRI, this article demonstrates that trait empathy modulates music processing. Replicating previous findings in the social neuroscience literature, isolated musical timbres are related to sensorimotor and paralimbic activation; in actual MUSIC listening, however, empathy is primarily associated with activity in prefrontal and reward areas. Empathic participants were found to be particularly sensitive to abrasive, “noisy” qualities of musical timbre, showing preferential activation of the SMA, possibly reflecting heightened motor mimetic susceptibility to sounds signaling high arousal, low valence affective states.

In the music listening task. empathic subjects demonstrated enhanced responsiveness to familiar music, with musical preference playing a mediating role. Taken together, these results confirm and extend recent research on the link between music and empathy, and may help bring us closer to understanding the social cognitive basis for music perception and cognition.

INTERPERSONAL REACTIVITY INDEX (IRI)

Reference:

Davis, M. H. (1980). A multidimensional approach to individual differences in empathy. JSAS Catalog of Selected Documents in Psychology, 10, 85.

Description of Measure:

Defines empathy as the “reactions of one individual to the observed experiences of another (Davis, 1983).”

28 items answered on a 5 point Likert scale ranging from “Does not describe me well” to “Describes me very well”. The measure has 4 subscales, each made up of 7 different items. These subscales are (taken directly from Davis, 1983):

Perspective Taking, the tendency to spontaneously adopt the psychological point of view of others.

Fantasy taps respondents‘ tendencies to transpose themselves imaginatively into the feelings and actions of fictitious characters in books, movies, and plays

Empathic Concern assesses “other-oriented” feelings of sympathy and concern for unfortunate others

Personal Distress measures “self oriented” feelings of personal anxiety and unease in tense interpersonal settings

Abstracts of Selected Related Articles:

Davis, M. H. (1983). Measuring individual differences in empathy: Evidence for a multidimensional approach. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 44, 113126.

The past decade has seen growing movement toward a view of empathy as a multidimensional construct. The Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI; Davis, 1980), which taps four separate aspects of empathy, is described, and its relationships with measures of social functioning, self esteem, emotionality, and sensitivity to others is assessed. As expected, each of the four subscales displays a distinctive and predictable pattern of relationships with these measures, as well as with previous unidimensional empathy measures. These findings, coupled with the theoretically important relationships existing among the four subscales themselves, provide considerable evidence for a multidimensional approach to empathy in general and for the use of the IRI in particular.

Pulos, S., Elison, J ,, & Lennon, R. (2004). Hierarchical structure of the Interpersonal Reactivity Index. Social Behavior and Personality, 32, 355 360.

The hierarchical factor structure of the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) (Davis, 1980) inventory was investigated with the Schmid Leiman orthogonalization procedure (Schmid & Leiman, 1957). The sample consisted of 409 college students. The analysis found that the IRI could be factored into four first order factors, corresponding to the four scales of the IRI. and two second order orthogonal factors, a general empathy factor and an emotional control factor.

INTERPERSONAL REACTIVITY INDEX

The following statements inquire about your thoughts and feelings in a variety of situations. For each item, indicate how well it describes you by choosing the appropriate letter on the scale at the top of the page: A, B, C, D, or E.

When you have decided on your answer, fill in the letter next to the item number.

READ EACH ITEM CAREFULLY BEFORE RESPONDING. Answer as honestly as you can. Thank you.

ANSWER SCALE:

A DOES NOT DESCRIBE ME WELL

B

C

D

E DESCRIBES ME VERY WELL

1. I daydream and fantasize, with some regularity, about things that might happen to me. (FS)

2. I often have tender, concerned feelings for people less fortunate than me. (EC)

3. I sometimes find it difficult to see things from the “other guy’s” point of View. (PT) (-)

4. Sometimes I don’t feel very sorry for other people when they are having problems. (EC) (-)

5. I really get involved with the feelings of the characters in a novel. (FS)

6. In emergency situations, I feel apprehensive and ill at ease. (PD)

7. I am usually objective when I watch a movie or play, and I don’t often get completely caught up in it. (FS) (-)

8. I try to look at everybody’s side of a disagreement before I make a decision. (PT)

9. When I see someone being taken advantage of, I feel kind of protective towards them. (EC)

10. I sometimes feel helpless when I am in the middle of a very emotional situation. (PD)

11. I sometimes try to understand my friends better by imagining how things look from their perspective. (PT)

12. Becoming extremely involved in a good book or movie is somewhat rare for me. (FS) (-)

13. When I see someone get hurt, I tend to remain calm. (PD) (-)

14. Other people’s misfortunes do not usually disturb me a great deal. (EC) (-)

15. If I‘m sure I’m right about something, I don’t waste much time listening to other people’s arguments. (PT) (-)

16. After seeing a play or movie, I have felt as though I were one of the characters. (FS)

17. Being in a tense emotional situation scares me. (PD)

18. When I see someone being treated unfairly, I sometimes don’t feel very much pity for them. (EC) (-)

19. I am usually pretty effective in dealing with emergencies. (PD) (-)

20. I am often quite touched by things that I see happen. (EC)

21. I believe that there are two sides to every question and try to look at them both. (PT)

22. I would describe myself as a pretty soft hearted person. (EC)

23. When I watch a good movie, I can very easily put myself in the place of a leading character. (FS)

24. I tend to lose control during emergencies. (PD)

25. When I’m upset at someone, I usually try to “put myself in his shoes” for a while. (PT)

26. When I am reading an interesting story or novel, I imagine how I would feel if the events in the story were happening to me. (FS)

27. When I see someone who badly needs help in an emergency, I go to pieces. (PD)

28. Before criticizing somebody, I try to imagine how I would feel if I were in their place. (PT)

See also:

Music and the Mind

by Anthony Storr

‘Wise Man’, Sapiens, A Brief History of Humankind – Dr Yuval Noah Harari.

Just 6 million years ago, a single female ape had two daughters. One became the ancestor of all chimpanzees, the other is our own grandmother.

From about 2 million years ago until around 10,000 years ago, the world was home, at one and the same time, to several human species. And why not? Today there are many species of foxes, bears and pigs. The earth of a hundred millennia ago was walked by at least six different species of man. It’s our current exclusivity, not that multi-species past, that is peculiar and perhaps incriminating.

It is unsettling and perhaps thrilling to think that we Sapiens could at one time have sex with an animal from a different species, and produce children together. Tolerance is not a Sapiens trademark. As we will see, we Sapiens have good reasons to repress the memory of our siblings.

Sapiens can cooperate in extremely flexible ways with countless numbers of strangers. That’s why Sapiens rule the world, whereas ants eat our leftovers and chimps are locked up in zoos and research laboratories.

100,000 years ago, at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one.

Us, Homo sapiens.

How did our species succeed in the battle for dominance? Why did our foraging ancestors come together to create cities and kingdoms? How did we come to believe in gods, nations and human rights; to trust money, books and laws; and to be enslaved by bureaucracy, consumerism and the pursuit of happiness? And what will our world be like in the millennia to come?

Bold, wide-ranging and provocative, Sapiens challenges everything we thought we knew about being human: our beliefs, our actions, our power and our future.

About the Author

“I encourage all of us, whatever our beliefs, to question the basic narratives of our world, to connect past developments with present concerns, and not to be afraid of controversial issues.”

Dr Yuval Noah Harari has a PhD in History from the University of Oxford and now lectures at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, specialising in World History. His research focuses on broad questions, such as:

What is the relation between history and biology? Is there justice in history? Did people become happier as history unfolded?

65,000 people have signed up to Harari’s online course, A Brief History of Humankind. Sapiens is an international bestseller and is published in more than 20 languages worldwide. In 2012 Harari was awarded the annual Polonsky Prize for Creativity and Originality in the Humanistic Disciplines.

PART ONE

The Cognitive Revolution

1. An Animal of No Significance

ABOUT 13.5 BILLION YEARS ago, matter, energy, time and space came into being in what is known as the Big Bang. The story of these fundamental features of our universe is called physics.

About 300,000 years after their appearance, matter and energy started to coalesce into complex structures, called atoms, which then combined into molecules. The story of atoms, molecules and their interactions is called chemistry.

About 3.8 billion years ago, on a planet called Earth, certain molecules combined to form particularly large and intricate structures called organisms. The story of organisms is called biology.

About 70,000 years ago, organisms belonging to the species Homo sapiens started to form even more elaborate structures called cultures. The subsequent development of these human cultures is called history.

Three important revolutions shaped the course of history: the Cognitive Revolution kick-started history about 70,000 years ago. The Agricultural Revolution sped it up about 12,000 years ago. The Scientific Revolution, which got under way only 500 years ago, may well end history and start something completely different.

This book tells the story of how these three revolutions have affected humans and their fellow organisms.

There were humans long before there was history. Animals much like modern humans first appeared about 2.5 million years ago. But for countless generations they did not stand out from the myriad other organisms with which they shared their habitats.

On a hike in East Africa 2 million years ago, you might well have encountered a familiar cast of human characters: anxious mothers cuddling their babies and clutches of carefree children playing in the mud; temperamental youths chafing against the dictates of society and weary elders who just wanted to be left in peace; chest-thumping machos trying to impress the local beauty and wise old matriarchs who had already seen it all. These archaic humans loved, played, formed close friendships and competed for status and power but so did chimpanzees, baboons and elephants. There was nothing special about humans. Nobody, least of all humans themselves, had any inkling that their descendants would one day walk on the moon, split the atom, fathom the genetic code and write history books. The most important thing to know about prehistoric humans is that they were insignificant animals with no more impact on their environment than gorillas, fireflies or jellyfish.

Biologists classify organisms into species. Animals are said to belong to the same species if they tend to mate with each other, giving birth to fertile offspring. Horses and donkeys have a recent common ancestor and share many physical traits. But they show little sexual interest in one another. They will mate if induced to do so but their offspring, called mules, are sterile. Mutations in donkey DNA can therefore never cross over to horses, or vice versa. The two types of animals are consequently considered two distinct species, moving along separate evolutionary paths. By contrast, a bulldog and a spaniel may look very different, but they are members of the same species, sharing the same DNA pool. They will happily mate and their puppies will grow up to pair off with other dogs and produce more puppies.

Species that evolved from a common ancestor are bunched together under the heading ‘genus’ (plural genera). Lions, tigers, leopards and jaguars are different species within the genus Panthera. Biologists label organisms with a two-part Latin name, genus followed by species. Lions, for example, are called Panthera Leo, the species leo of the genus Panthera. Presumably, everyone reading this book is a Homo sapiens the species sapiens (wise) of the genus Homo (man).

Genera in their turn are grouped into families, such as the cats (lions, Cheetahs, house cats), the dogs (wolves, foxes, jackals) and the elephants (elephants, mammoths, mastodons). All members of a family trace their lineage back to a founding matriarch or patriarch. All cats, for example, from the smallest house kitten to the most ferocious lion, share a common feline ancestor who lived about 25 million years ago.

Homo sapiens, too, belongs to a family. This banal fact used to be one of history’s most closely guarded secrets. Homo sapiens long preferred to view itself as set apart from animals, an orphan bereft of family, lacking siblings or cousins, and, most importantly, without parents. But that’s just not the case. Like it or not, we are members of a large and particularly noisy family called the great apes. Our closest living relatives include chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans. The chimpanzees are the closest. Just 6 million years ago, a single female ape had two daughters. One became the ancestor of all chimpanzees, the other is our own grandmother.

Skeletons in the Closet

Homo sapiens has kept hidden an even more disturbing secret. Not only do we possess an abundance of uncivilised cousins, once upon a time we had quite a few brothers and sisters as well. We are used to thinking about ourselves as the only humans, because for the last 10,000 years, our species has indeed been the only human species around. Yet the real meaning of the word human is ‘an animal belonging to the genus Homo’, and there used to be many other species of this genus besides Homo sapiens. Moreover, as we shall see in the last chapter of the book, in the not-so-distant future we might again have to contend with non-sapiens humans. To clarify this point, I will often use the term ‘Sapiens’ to denote members of the species Homo sapiens, while reserving the term ‘human’ to refer to all extant members of the genus Homo.

Humans first evolved in East Africa about 2.5 million years ago from an earlier genus of apes called Australopithecus, which means ‘Southern Ape’. About 2 million years ago, some of these archaic men and women left their homeland to journey through and settle vast areas of North Africa, Europe and Asia. Since survival in the snowy forests of northern Europe required different traits than those needed to stay alive in Indonesia’s steaming jungles, human populations evolved in different directions. The result was several distinct species, to each of which scientists have assigned a pompous Latin name.

Humans in Europe and western Asia evolved into Homo neanderthalensis (‘Man from the Neander Valley’), popularly referred to simply as ‘Neanderthals’. Neanderthals, bulkier and more muscular than us Sapiens, were well adapted to the cold climate of Ice Age western Eurasia. The more eastern regions of Asia were populated by Homo erectus, ‘Upright Man’, who survived there for close to 2 million years, making it the most durable human species ever. This record is unlikely to be broken even by our own species. It is doubtful whether Homo sapiens will still be around a thousand years from now, so 2 million years is really out of our league.

On the island of Java, in Indonesia, lived Homo soloensis, ‘Man from the Solo Valley’, who was suited to life in the tropics. On another Indonesian island the small island of Flores archaic humans underwent a process of dwarfing. Humans first reached Flores when the sea level was exceptionally low, and the island was easily accessible from the mainland. When the seas rose again, some people were trapped on the island, which was poor in resources. Big people, who need a lot of food, died first. Smaller fellows survived much better. Over the generations, the people of Flores became dwarves. This unique species, known by scientists as Homo floresiensis, reached a maximum height of only one metre and weighed no more than twenty-five kilograms. They were nevertheless able to produce stone tools, and even managed occasionally to hunt down some of the island’s elephants though, to be fair, the elephants were a dwarf species as well.

In 2010 another lost sibling was rescued from oblivion, when scientists excavating the Denisova Cave in Siberia discovered a fossilised finger bone. Genetic analysis proved that the finger belonged to a previously unknown human species, which was named Homo denisova. Who knows how many lost relatives of ours are waiting to be discovered in other caves, on other islands, and in other climes?

While these humans were evolving in Europe and Asia, evolution in East Africa did not stop. The cradle of humanity continued to nurture numerous new Species, such as Homo rudolfensis, ‘Man from Lake Rudolf’, Homo ergaster, ‘Working Man’, and eventually our own species, which we’ve immodestly named Homo sapiens, ‘Wise Man’.

The members of some of these species were massive and others were dwarves. Some were fearsome hunters and others meek plant-gatherers. Some lived only on a single island, while many roamed over continents. But all of them belonged to the genus Homo. They were all human beings.

It’s a common fallacy to envision these species as arranged in a straight line of descent, with Ergaster begetting Erectus, Erectus begetting the Neanderthals, and the Neanderthals evolving into us. This linear model gives the mistaken impression that at any particular moment only one type of human inhabited the earth, and that all earlier species were merely older models of ourselves.

The truth is that from about 2 million years ago until around 10,000 years ago, the world was home, at one and the same time, to several human species. And why not? Today there are many species of foxes, bears and pigs. The earth of a hundred millennia ago was walked by at least six different species of man. It’s our current exclusivity, not that multi-species past, that is peculiar and perhaps incriminating. As we will shortly see, we Sapiens have good reasons to repress the memory of our siblings.

The Cost of Thinking

Despite their many differences, all human species share several defining characteristics. Most notably, humans have extraordinarily large brains compared to other animals. Mammals weighing sixty kilograms have an average brain size of 200 cubic centimetres. The earliest men and women, 2.5 million years ago, had brains of about 600 cubic centimetres. Modern Sapiens sport a brain averaging 1,200-1,400 cubic centimetres. Neanderthal brains were even bigger.

That evolution should select for larger brains may seem to us like, well, a no-brainer. We are so enamoured of our high intelligence that we assume that when it comes to cerebral power, more must be better. But if that were the case, the feline family would also have produced cats who could do calculus, and frogs would by now have launched their own space programme. Why are giant brains so rare in the animal kingdom?

The fact is that a jumbo brain is a jumbo drain on the body. It’s not easy to carry around, especially when encased inside a massive skull. It’s even harder to fuel. In Homo sapiens, the brain accounts for about 2-3 per cent of total body weight, but it consumes 25 per cent of the body’s energy when the body is at rest. By comparison, the brains of other apes require only 8 per cent of rest-time energy.

Archaic humans paid for their large brains in two ways. Firstly, they spent more time in search of food. Secondly, their muscles atrophied. Like a government diverting money from defence to education, humans diverted energy from biceps to neurons. It’s hardly a foregone conclusion that this is a good strategy for survival on the savannah. A chimpanzee can’t win an argument with a Homo sapiens, but the ape can rip the man apart like a rag doll.

Today our big brains pay off nicely, because we can produce cars and guns that enable us to move much faster than chimps, and shoot them from a safe distance instead of wrestling. But cars and guns are a recent phenomenon. For more than 2 million years, human neural networks kept growing and growing, but apart from some flint knives and pointed sticks, humans had precious little to show for it.

What then drove forward the evolution of the massive human brain during those 2 million years? Frankly, we don’t know.

Another singular human trait is that we walk upright on two legs. Standing up, it’s easier to scan the savannah for game or enemies, and arms that are unnecessary for locomotion are freed for other purposes, like throwing stones or signalling. The more things these hands could do, the more successful their owners were, so evolutionary pressure brought about an increasing concentration of nerves and finely tuned muscles in the palms and fingers. As a result, humans can perform very intricate tasks with their hands. In particular, they can produce and use sophisticated tools. The first evidence for tool production dates from about 2.5 million years ago, and the manufacture and use of tools are the criteria by which archaeologists recognise ancient humans.

Yet walking upright has its downside. The skeleton of our primate ancestors developed for millions of years to support a creature that walked on all fours and had a relatively small head. Adjusting to an upright position was quite a challenge, especially when the scaffolding had to support an extra-large cranium. Humankind paid for its lofty vision and industrious hands with backaches and stiff necks.

Women paid extra. An upright gait required narrower hips, constricting the birth canal and this just when babies’ heads were getting bigger and bigger. Death in childbirth became a major hazard for human females. Women who gave birth earlier, when the infant’s brain and head were still relatively small and supple, fared better and lived to have more children. Natural selection consequently favoured earlier births. And, indeed, compared to other animals, humans are born prematurely, when many of their vital systems are still underdeveloped. A colt can trot shortly after birth; a kitten leaves its mother to forage on its own when it is just a few weeks old. Human babies are helpless, dependent for many years on their elders for sustenance, protection and education.

This fact has contributed greatly both to humankind’s extraordinary social abilities and to its unique social problems. Lone mothers could hardly forage enough food for their offspring and themselves with needy children in tow. Raising children required constant help from other family members and neighbours.

It takes a tribe to raise a human. Evolution thus favoured those capable of forming strong social ties.

In addition, since humans are born underdeveloped, they can be educated and socialised to a far greater extent than any other animal. Most mammals emerge from the womb like glazed earthenware emerging from a kiln, any attempt at remoulding will only scratch or break them. Humans emerge from the womb like molten glass from a furnace. They can be spun, stretched and shaped with a surprising degree of freedom. This is why today we can educate our children to become Christian or Buddhist, capitalist or socialist, warlike or peace-loving.

We assume that a large brain, the use of tools, superior learning abilities and complex social structures are huge advantages. It seems selfevident that these have made humankind the most powerful animal on earth. But humans enjoyed all of these advantages for a full 2 million years during which they remained weak and marginal creatures. Thus humans who lived a million years ago, despite their big brains and sharp stone tools, dwelt in constant fear of predators, rarely hunted large game, and subsisted mainly by gathering plants, scooping up insects, stalking small animals, and eating the carrion left behind by other more powerful carnivores.

One of the most common uses of early stone tools was to crack open bones in order to get to the marrow. Some researchers believe this was our original niche. Just as woodpeckers specialise in extracting insects from the trunks of trees, the first humans specialised in extracting marrow from bones. Why marrow? Well, suppose you observe a pride of lions take down and devour a giraffe. You wait patiently until they’re done. But it’s still not your turn because first the hyenas and jackals and you don’t dare interfere with them scavenge the leftovers. Only then would you and your band dare approach the carcass, look cautiously left and right and dig into the edible tissue that remained.

This is a key to understanding our history and psychology. Genus Homo’s position in the food chain was, until quite recently, solidly in the middle. For millions of years, humans hunted smaller creatures and gathered what they could, all the while being hunted by larger predators. It was only 400,000 years ago that several species of man began to hunt large game on a regular basis, and only in the last 100,000 years with the rise of Homo sapiens that man jumped to the top of the food chain.

That spectacular leap from the middle to the top had enormous consequences. Other animals at the top of the pyramid, such as lions and sharks, evolved into that position very gradually, over millions of years. This enabled the ecosystem to develop checks and balances that prevent lions and sharks from wreaking too much havoc. As lions became deadlier, so gazelles evolved to run faster, hyenas to cooperate better, and rhinoceroses to be more badtempered. In contrast, humankind ascended to the top so quickly that the ecosystem was not given time to adjust. Moreover, humans themselves failed to adjust. Most top predators of the planet are majestic creatures. Millions of years of dominion have filled them with self-confidence. Sapiens by contrast is more like a banana-republic dictator. Having so recently been one of the underdogs of the savannah, we are full of fears and anxieties over our position, which makes us doubly cruel and dangerous. Many historical calamities, from deadly wars to ecological catastrophes, have resulted from this over-hasty jump.

A Race of Cooks

A significant step on the way to the top was the domestication of fire. Some human species may have made occasional use of fire as early as 800,000 years ago. By about 300,000 years ago, Homo erectus, Neanderthals and the forefathers of Homo sapiens were using fire on a daily basis. Humans now had a dependable source of light and warmth, and a deadly weapon against prowling lions. Not long aftenwards, humans may even have started deliberately to torch their neighbourhoods. A carefully managed fire could turn impassable barren thickets into prime grasslands teeming with game. In addition, once the fire died down, Stone Age entrepreneurs could walk through the smoking remains and harvest charcoaled animals, nuts and tubers.

But the best thing fire did was cook. Foods that humans cannot digest in their natural forms such as wheat, rice and potatoes became staples of our diet thanks to cooking. Fire not only changed food’s chemistry, it changed its biology as well. Cooking killed germs and parasites that infested food. Humans also had a far easier time chewing and digesting old favourites such as fruits, nuts, insects and carrion if they were cooked. Whereas chimpanzees spend five hours a day chewing raw food, a single hour suffices for people eating cooked food.

The advent of cooking enabled humans to eat more kinds of food, to devote less time to eating, and to make do with smaller teeth and shorter intestines. Some scholars believe there is a direct link between the advent of cooking, the shortening of the human intestinal tract, and the growth of the human brain. Since long intestines and large brains are both massive energy consumers, it’s hard to have both. By shortening the intestines and decreasing their energy consumption, cooking inadvertently opened the way to the jumbo brains of Neanderthals and Sapiens.

Fire also opened the first significant gulf between man and the other animals. The power of almost all animals depends on their bodies: the strength of their muscles, the size of their teeth, the breadth of their wings. Though they may harness winds and currents, they are unable to control these natural forces, and are always constrained by their physical design. Eagles, for example, identify thermal columns rising from the ground, spread their giant wings and allow the hot air to lift them upwards. Yet eagles cannot control the location of the columns, and their maximum carrying capacity is strictly proportional to their wingspan.

When humans domesticated fire, they gained control of an obedient and potentially limitless force. Unlike eagles, humans could choose when and where to ignite a flame, and they were able to exploit fire for any number of tasks. Most importantly, the power of fire was not limited by the form, structure or strength of the human body. A single woman with a flint or fire stick could burn down an entire forest in a matter of hours. The domestication of fire was a sign of things to come.

Our Brothers’ Keepers

Despite the benefits of fire, 150,000 years ago humans were still marginal creatures. They could now scare away lions, warm themselves during cold nights, and burn down the occasional forest. Yet counting all species together, there were still no more than perhaps a million humans living between the Indonesian archipelago and the Iberian peninsula, a mere blip on the ecological radar.

Our own species, Homo sapiens, was already present on the world stage, but so far it was just minding its own business in a corner of Africa. We don’t know exactly where and when animals that can be classified as Homo sapiens first evolved from some earlier type of humans, but most scientists agree that by 150,000 years ago, East Africa was populated by Sapiens that looked just like us. If one of them turned up in a modern morgue, the local pathologist would notice nothing peculiar. Thanks to the blessings of fire, they had smaller teeth and jaws than their ancestors, whereas they had massive brains, equal in size to ours.

Scientists also agree that about 70,000 years ago, Sapiens from East Africa spread into the Arabian peninsula, and from there they quickly overran the entire Eurasian landmass.

When Homo sapiens landed in Arabia, most of Eurasia was already settled by other humans. What happened to them? There are two conflicting theories. The ‘Interbreeding Theory’ tells a story of attraction, sex and mingling. As the African immigrants spread around the world, they bred with other human populations, and people today are the outcome of this interbreeding.

For example, when Sapiens reached the Middle East and Europe, they encountered the Neanderthals. These humans were more muscular than Sapiens, had larger brains, and were better adapted to cold climes. They used tools and fire, were good hunters, and apparently took care of their sick and infirm. (Archaeologists have discovered the bones of Neanderthals who lived for many years with severe physical handicaps, evidence that they were cared for by their relatives.) Neanderthals are often depicted in caricatures as the archetypical brutish and stupid ‘cave people’, but recent evidence has changed their image.

According to the Interbreeding Theory, when Sapiens spread into Neanderthal lands, Sapiens bred with Neanderthals until the two populations merged. If this is the case, then today’s Eurasians are not pure Sapiens. They are a mixture of Sapiens and Neanderthals. Similarly, when Sapiens reached East Asia, they interbred with the local Erectus, so the Chinese and Koreans are a mixture of Sapiens and Erectus.

The opposing view, called the ‘Replacement Theory’ tells a very different story, one of incompatibility, revulsion, and perhaps even genocide. According to this theory, Sapiens and other humans had different anatomies, and most likely different mating habits and even body odours. They would have had little sexual interest in one another. And even if a Neanderthal Romeo and a Sapiens Juliet fell in love, they could not produce fertile children, because the genetic gulf separating the two populations was already unbridgeable. The two populations remained completely distinct, and when the Neanderthals died out, or were killed off, their genes died with them. According to this view, Sapiens replaced all the previous human populations without merging with them. If that is the case, the lineages of all contemporary humans can be traced back, exclusively, to East Africa, 70,000 years ago. We are all ‘pure Sapiens’.

A lot hinges on this debate. From an evolutionary perspective, 70,000 years is a relatively short interval. If the Replacement Theory is correct, all living humans have roughly the same genetic baggage, and racial distinctions among them are negligible. But if the Interbreeding Theory is right, there might well be genetic differences between Africans, Europeans and Asians that go back hundreds of thousands of years. This is political dynamite, which could provide material for explosive racial theories.

In recent decades the Replacement Theory has been the common wisdom in the field. It had firmer archaeological backing, and was more politically correct (scientists had no desire to open up the Pandora’s box of racism by claiming significant genetic diversity among modern human populations). But that ended in 2010, when the results of a four-year effort to map the Neanderthal genome were published. Geneticists were able to collect enough intact Neanderthal DNA from fossils to make a broad comparison between it and the DNA of contemporary humans. The results stunned the scientific community.

It turned out that 1-4 per cent of the unique human DNA of modern populations in the Middle East and Europe is Neanderthal DNA. That’s not a huge amount, but it’s significant. A second shock came several months later, when DNA extracted from the fossilised finger from Denisova was mapped. The results proved that up to 6 per cent of the unique human DNA of modern Melanesians and Aboriginal Australians is Denisovan DNA.

If these results are valid, and it’s important to keep in mind that further research is under way and may either reinforce or modify these conclusions, the Interbreeders got at least some things right. But that doesn’t mean that the Replacement Theory is completely wrong. Since Neanderthals and Denisovans contributed only a small amount of DNA to our present-day genome, it is impossible to speak of a ‘merger’ between Sapiens and other human species. Although differences between them were not large enough to completely prevent fertile intercourse, they were sufficient to make such contacts very rare.

How then should we understand the biological relatedness of Sapiens, Neanderthals and Denisovans? Clearly, they were not completely different species like horses and donkeys. On the other hand, they were not just different populations of the same species, like bulldogs and spaniels. Biological reality is not black and white. There are also important grey areas. Every two species that evolved from a common ancestor, such as horses and donkeys, were at one time just two populations of the same species, like bulldogs and spaniels. There must have been a point when the two populations were already quite different from one another, but still capable on rare occasions of having sex and producing fertile offspring. Then another mutation severed this last connecting thread, and they went their separate evolutionary ways.

It seems that about 50,000 years ago, Sapiens, Neanderthals and Denisovans were at that borderline point. They were almost, but not quite, entirely separate species. As we shall see in the next chapter, Sapiens were already very different from Neanderthals and Denisovans, not only in their genetic code and physical traits, but also in their cognitive and social abilities, yet it appears it was still just possible, on rare occasions, for a Sapiens and a Neanderthal to produce a fertile offspring. So the populations did not merge, but a few lucky Neanderthal genes did hitch a ride on the Sapiens Express.

It is unsettling and perhaps thrilling to think that we Sapiens could at one time have sex with an animal from a different species, and produce children together.

But if the Neanderthals, Denisovans and other human species didn’t merge with Sapiens, why did they vanish? One possibility is that Homo sapiens drove them to extinction. Imagine a Sapiens band reaching a Balkan valley where Neanderthals had lived for hundreds of thousands of years. The newcomers began to hunt the deer and gather the nuts and berries that were the Neanderthals’ traditional staples. Sapiens were more proficient hunters and gatherers thanks to better technology and superior social skills so they multiplied and spread. The less resourceful Neanderthals found it increasingly difficult to feed themselves. Their population dwindled and they slowly died out, except perhaps for one or two members who joined their Sapiens neighbours.

Another possibility is that competition for resources flared up into violence and genocide.

Tolerance is not a Sapiens trademark. In modern times, a small difference in skin colour, dialect or religion has been enough to prompt one group of Sapiens to set about exterminating another group. Would ancient Sapiens have been more tolerant towards an entirely different human species? It may well be that when Sapiens encountered Neanderthals, the result was the first and most significant ethnic-cleansing campaign in history.

Whichever way it happened, the Neanderthals, and the other human species, pose one of history’s great what ifs. Imagine how things might have turned out had the Neanderthals or Denisovans survived alongside Homo sapiens. What kind of cultures, societies and political structures would have emerged in a world where several different human species coexisted? How, for example, would religious faiths have unfolded? Would the book of Genesis have declared that Neanderthals descend from Adam and Eve, would Jesus have died for the sins of the Denisovans, and would the Qur’an have reserved seats in heaven for all righteous humans, whatever their species? Would Neanderthals have been able to serve in the Roman legions, or in the sprawling bureaucracy of imperial China? Would the American Declaration of Independence hold as a self-evident truth that all members of the genus Homo are created equal? Would Karl Marx have urged workers of all species to unite?

Over the past 10,000 years, Homo sapiens has grown so accustomed to being the only human species that it’s hard for us to conceive of any other possibility. Our lack of brothers and sisters makes it easier to imagine that we are the epitome of creation, and that a chasm separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom.

When Charles Darwin indicated that Homo sapiens was just another kind of animal, people were outraged. Even today many refuse to believe it. Had the Neanderthals survived, would we still imagine ourselves to be a creature apart? Perhaps this is exactly why our ancestors wiped out the Neanderthals. They were too familiar to ignore, but too different to tolerate.

Whether Sapiens are to blame or not, no sooner had they arrived at a new location than the native population became extinct. The last remains of Homo soloensis are dated to about 50,000 years ago. Homo denisova disappeared shortly thereafter. Neanderthals made their exit roughly 30,000 years ago. The last dwarf-like humans vanished from Flores Island about 12,000 years ago. They left behind some bones, stone tools, a few genes in our DNA and a lot of unanswered questions. They also left behind us, Homo sapiens, the last human specks.

What was the Sapiens’ secret of success? How did we manage to settle so rapidly in so many distant and ecologically different habitats? How did we push all other human species into oblivion? Why couldn’t even the strong, brainy, cold-proof Neanderthals survive our onslaught? The debate continues to rage. The most likely answer is the very thing that makes the debate possible: Homo sapiens conquered the world thanks above all to its unique language.

2. The Tree of Knowledge

IN THE PREVIOUS chapter we saw that although Sapiens had already populated East Africa 150,000 years ago, they began to overrun the rest of planet Earth and drive the other human species to extinction only about 70,000 years ago. In the intervening millennia, even though these archaic Sapiens looked just like us and their brains were as big as ours, they did not enjoy any marked advantage over other human species, did not produce particularly sophisticated tools, and did not accomplish any other special feats.

In fact, in the first recorded encounter between Sapiens and Neanderthals, the Neanderthals won. About 100,000 years ago, some Sapiens groups migrated north to the Levant, which was Neanderthal territory, but failed to secure a firm footing. It might have been due to nasty natives, an inclement climate, or unfamiliar local parasites. Whatever the reason, the Sapiens eventually retreated, leaving the Neanderthals as masters of the Middle East.

This poor record of achievement has led scholars to speculate that the internal structure of the brains of these Sapiens was probably different from ours. They looked like us, but their cognitive abilities, learning, remembering, communicating were far more limited. Teaching such an ancient Sapiens English, persuading him of the truth of Christian dogma, or getting him to understand the theory of evolution would probably have been hopeless undertakings. Conversely, we would have had a very hard time learning his language and understanding his way of thinking.

But then, beginning about 70,000 years ago, Homo sapiens started doing very special things. Around that date Sapiens bands left Africa for a second time. This time they drove the Neanderthals and all other human species not only from the Middle East, but from the face of the earth. Within a remarkably short period, Sapiens reached Europe and East Asia. About 45,000 years ago, they somehow crossed the open sea and landed in Australia a continent hitherto untouched by humans. The period from about 70,000 years ago to about 30,000 years ago witnessed the invention of boats, oil lamps, bows and arrows and needles (essential for sewing warm clothing). The first objects that can reliably be called art date from this era (see the Stadel lion-man hem), as does the first clear evidence for religion, commerce and social stratification.

Most researchers believe that these unprecedented accomplishments were the product of a revolution in Sapiens’ cognitive abilities. They maintain that the people who drove the Neanderthals to extinction, settled Australia, and carved the Stadel lion-man were as intelligent, creative and sensitive as we are. If we were to come across the artists of the Stadel Cave, we could learn their language and they ours. We’d be able to explain to them everything we know from the adventures of Alice in Wonderland to the paradoxes of quantum physics and they could teach us how their people view the world.

The Cognitive Revolution

The appearance of new ways of thinking and communicating, between 70,000 and 30,000 years ago, constitutes the Cognitive Revolution. What caused it? We’re not sure. The most commonly believed theory argues that accidental genetic mutations changed the inner wiring of the brains of Sapiens, enabling them to think in unprecedented ways and to communicate using an altogether new type of language. We might call it the Tree of Knowledge mutation.

Why did it occur in Sapiens DNA rather than in that of Neanderthals? It was a matter of pure chance, as far as we can tell. But it’s more important to understand the consequences of the Tree of Knowledge mutation than its causes. What was so special about the new Sapiens language that it enabled us to conquer the world?

It was not the first language. Every animal has some kind of language. Even insects, such as bees and ants, know how to communicate in sophisticated ways, informing one another of the whereabouts of food. Neither was it the first vocal language. Many animals, including all ape and monkey species, have vocal languages. For example, green monkeys use calls of various kinds to communicate. Zoologists have identified one call that means ‘Careful! An eagle!’ A slightly different call warns ‘Careful! A lion!’ When researchers played a recording of the first call to a group of monkeys, the monkeys stopped what they were doing and looked upwards in fear. When the same group heard a recording of the second call, the lion warning, they quickly scrambled up a tree.

Sapiens can produce many more distinct sounds than green monkeys, but whales and elephants have equally impressive abilities. A parrot can say anything Albert Einstein could say, as well as mimicking the sounds of phones ringing, doors slamming and sirens wailing. Whatever advantage Einstein had over a parrot, it wasn’t vocal. What, then, is so special about our language?

The most common answer is that our language is amazingly supple. We can connect a limited number of sounds and signs to produce an infinite number of sentences, each with a distinct meaning. We can thereby ingest, store and communicate a prodigious amount of information about the surrounding world. A green monkey can yell to its comrades, ‘Careful! A lion!’ But a modern human can tell her friends that this morning, near the bend in the river, she saw a lion tracking a herd of bison. She can then describe the exact location, including the different paths leading to the area. With this information, the members of her band can put their heads together and discuss whether they should approach the river, chase away the lion, and hunt the bison.

A second theory agrees that our unique language evolved as a means of sharing information about the world. But the most important information that needed to be conveyed was about humans, not about lions and bison. Our language evolved as a way of gossiping.

According to this theory Homo sapiens is primarily a social animal. Social cooperation is our key for survival and reproduction. It is not enough for individual men and women to know the whereabouts of lions and bison. It’s much more important for them to know who in their band hates whom, who is sleeping with whom, who is honest, and who is a cheat.

The amount of information that one must obtain and store in order to track the ever-changing relationships of even a few dozen individuals is staggering. (In a band of fifty individuals, there are 1,225 one-on-one relationships, and countless more complex social combinations.) All apes show a keen interest in such social information, but they have trouble gossiping effectively.

Neanderthals and archaic Homo sapiens probably also had a hard time talking behind each other’s backs, a much maligned ability which is in fact essential for cooperation in large numbers. The new linguistic skills that modern Sapiens acquired about seventy millennia ago enabled them to gossip for hours on end. Reliable information about who could be trusted meant that small bands could expand into larger bands, and Sapiens could develop tighter and more sophisticated types of cooperation.

The gossip theory might sound like a joke, but numerous studies support it. Even today the vast majority of human communication whether in the form of emails, phone calls or newspaper columns is gossip. It comes so naturally to us that it seems as if our language evolved for this very purpose. Do you think that history professors chat about the reasons for the First World War when they meet for lunch, or that nuclear physicists spend their coffee breaks at scientific conferences talking about quarks? Sometimes. But more often, they gossip about the professor who caught her husband cheating, or the quarrel between the head of the department and the dean, or the rumours that a colleague used his research funds to buy a Lexus. Gossip usually focuses on wrongdoings. Rumour-mongers are the original fourth estate, journalists who inform society about and thus protect it from cheats and freeloaders.

Most likely, both the gossip theory and the there-is-a-lion-near-the-river theory are valid. Yet the truly unique feature of our language is not its ability to transmit information about men and lions. Rather, it’s the ability to transmit information about things that do not exist at all.

As far as we know, only Sapiens can talk about entire kinds of entities that they have never seen, touched or smelled.

Legends, myths, gods and religions appeared for the first time with the Cognitive Revolution. Many animals and human species could previously say, ‘Careful! A lion!’ Thanks to the Cognitive Revolution, Homo sapiens acquired the ability to say, ‘The lion is the guardian spirit of our tribe.’ This ability to speak about fictions is the most unique feature of Sapiens language.

It’s relatively easy to agree that only Homo sapiens can speak about things that don’t really exist, and believe six impossible things before breakfast. You could never convince a monkey to give you a banana by promising him limitless bananas after death in monkey heaven. But why is it important? After all, fiction can be dangerously misleading or distracting.

People who go to the forest looking for fairies and unicorns would seem to have less chance of survival than people who go looking for mushrooms and deer. And if you spend hours praying to non-existing guardian spirits, aren’t you wasting precious time, time better spent foraging, fighting and fornicating?

But fiction has enabled us not merely to imagine things, but to do so collectively. We can weave common myths such as the biblical creation story, the Dreamtime myths of Aboriginal Australians, and the nationalist myths of modern states. Such myths give Sapiens the unprecedented ability to cooperate flexibly in large numbers. Ants and bees can also work together in huge numbers, but they do so in a very rigid manner and only with close relatives. Wolves and chimpanzees cooperate far more flexibly than ants, but they can do so only with small numbers of other individuals that they know intimately.

Sapiens can cooperate in extremely flexible ways with countless numbers of strangers. That’s why Sapiens rule the world, whereas ants eat our leftovers and chimps are locked up in zoos and research laboratories.

The Legend of Peugeot

Our chimpanzee cousins usually live in small troops of several dozen individuals. They form close friendships, hunt together and fight shoulder to shoulder against baboons, Cheetahs and enemy chimpanzees. Their social structure tends to be hierarchical. The dominant member, who is almost always a male, is termed the ‘alpha male’. Other males and females exhibit their submission to the alpha male by bowing before him while making grunting sounds, not unlike human subjects kowtowing before a king. The alpha male strives to maintain social harmony within his troop. When two individuals fight, he will intervene and stop the violence. Less benevolently, he might monopolise particularly coveted foods and prevent lower-ranking males from mating with the females.

When two males are contesting the alpha position, they usually do so by forming extensive coalitions of supporters, both male and female, from within the group. Ties between coalition members are based on intimate daily contact hugging, touching, kissing, grooming and mutual favours. Just as human politicians on election campaigns go around shaking hands and kissing babies, so aspirants to the top position in a chimpanzee group spend much time hugging, back-slapping and kissing baby chimps. The alpha male usually wins his position not because he is physically stronger, but because he leads a large and stable coalition. These coalitions play a central part not only during overt struggles for the alpha position, but in almost all day-to-day activities. Members of a coalition spend more time together, share food, and help one another in times of trouble.

There are clear limits to the size of groups that can be formed and maintained in such a way. In order to function, all members of a group must know each other intimately. Two chimpanzees who have never met, never fought, and never engaged in mutual grooming will not know whether they can trust one another, whether it would be worthwhile to help one another, and which of them ranks higher. Under natural conditions, a typical chimpanzee troop consists of about twenty to fifty individuals. As the number of chimpanzees in a troop increases, the social order destabilises, eventually leading to a rupture and the formation of a new troop by some of the animals. Only in a handful of cases have zoologists observed groups larger than a hundred. Separate groups seldom cooperate, and tend to compete for territory and food. Researchers have documented prolonged warfare between groups, and even one case of ‘genocidal’ activity in which one troop systematically slaughtered most members of a neighbouring band.

Similar patterns probably dominated the social lives of early humans, including archaic Homo sapiens. Humans, like chimps, have social instincts that enabled our ancestors to form friendships and hierarchies, and to hunt or fight together. However, like the social instincts of chimps, those of humans were adapted only for small intimate groups. When the group grew too large, its social order destabilised and the band split. Even if a particularly fertile valley could feed 500 archaic Sapiens, there was no way that so many strangers could live together. How could they agree who should be leader, who should hunt where, or who should mate with whom?

In the wake of the Cognitive Revolution, gossip helped Homo sapiens to form larger and more stable bands. But even gossip has its limits. Sociological research has shown that the maximum ‘natural’ size of a group bonded by gossip is about 150 individuals. Most people can neither intimately know, nor gossip effectively about, more than 150 human beings.

Even today, a critical threshold in human organisations falls somewhere around this magic number. Below this threshold, communities, businesses, social networks and military units can maintain themselves based mainly on intimate acquaintance and rumour-mongering. There is no need for formal ranks, titles and law books to keep order. A platoon of thirty soldiers or even a company of a hundred soldiers can function well on the basis of intimate relations, with a minimum of formal discipline. A well-respected sergeant can become ‘king of the company’ and exercise authority even over commissioned officers. A small family business can survive and flourish without a board of directors, a CEO or an accounting department.

But once the threshold of 150 individuals is crossed, things can no longer work that way. You cannot run a division with thousands of soldiers the same way you run a platoon. Successful family businesses usually face a crisis when they grow larger and hire more personnel. If they cannot reinvent themselves, they go bust.

How did Homo sapiens manage to cross this critical threshold, eventually founding cities comprising tens of thousands of inhabitants and empires ruling hundreds of millions? The secret was probably the appearance of fiction. Large numbers of strangers can cooperate successfully by believing in common myths.

Any large-scale human cooperation whether a modern state, a medieval church, an ancient city or an archaic tribe is rooted in common myths that exist only in people’s collective imagination. Churches are rooted in common religious myths. Two Catholics who have never met can nevertheless go together on crusade or pool funds to build a hospital because they both believe that God was incarnated in human flesh and allowed Himself to be crucified to redeem our sins. States are rooted in common national myths. Two Serbs who have never met might risk their lives to save one another because both believe in the existence of the Serbian nation, the Serbian homeland and the Serbian flag. Judicial systems are rooted in common legal myths. Two lawyers who have never met can nevertheless combine efforts to defend a complete stranger because they both believe in the existence of laws, justice, human rights and the money paid out in fees.

Yet none of these things exists outside the stories that people invent and tell one another. There are no gods in the universe, no nations, no money, no human rights, no laws and no justice outside the common imagination of human beings.

People easily understand that ‘primitives’ cement their social order by believing in ghosts and spirits, and gathering each full moon to dance together around the campfire. What we fail to appreciate is that our modern institutions function on exactly the same basis. Take for example the world of business corporations. Modern businesspeople and lawyers are, in fact, powerful sorcerers. The principal difference between them and tribal shamans is that modern lawyers tell far stranger tales. The legend of Peugeot affords us a good example.

An icon that somewhat resembles the Stadel lion-man appears today on cars, trucks and motorcycles from Paris to Sydney. It’s the hood ornament that adorns vehicles made by Peugeot, one of the oldest and largest of Europe’s carmakers. Peugeot began as a small family business in the village of Valentigney, just 300 kilometres from the Stadel Cave. Today the company employs about 200,000 people worldwide, most of whom are complete strangers to each other. These strangers cooperate so effectively that in 2008 Peugeot produced more than 1.5 million automobiles, earning revenues of about 55 billion euros.

In what sense can we say that Peugeot SA (the company’s official name) exists? There are many Peugeot vehicles, but these are obviously not the company. Even if every Peugeot in the world were simultaneously junked and sold for scrap metal, Peugeot SA would not disappear. It would continue to manufacture new cars and issue its annual report. The company owns factories, machinery and showrooms, and employs mechanics, accountants and secretaries, but all these together do not comprise Peugeot. A disaster might kill every single one of Peugeot’s employees, and go on to destroy all of its assembly lines and executive offices. Even then, the company could borrow money, hire new employees, build new factories and buy new machinery. Peugeot has managers and shareholders, but neither do they constitute the company. All the managers could be dismissed and all its shares sold, but the company itself would remain intact.

It doesn’t mean that Peugeot SA is invulnerable or immortal. If a judge were to mandate the dissolution of the company, its factories would remain standing and its workers, accountants, managers and shareholders would continue to live but Peugeot SA would immediately vanish. In short, Peugeot SA seems to have no essential connection to the physical world. Does it really exist?

Peugeot is a figment of our collective imagination. Lawyers call this a ‘legal fiction’. It can’t be pointed at; it is not a physical object. But it exists as a legal entity. Just like you or me, it is bound by the laws of the countries in which it operates. It can open a bank account and own property. It pays taxes, and it can be sued and even prosecuted separately from any of the people who own or work for it.

Peugeot belongs to a particular genre of legal fictions called ‘limited liability companies’. The idea behind such companies is among humanity’s most ingenious inventions. Homo sapiens lived for untold millennia without them. During most of recorded history property could be owned only by flesh-and-blood humans, the kind that stood on two legs and had big brains. If in thirteenth-century France Jean set up a wagon-manufacturing workshop, he himself was the business. If a wagon he’d made broke down a week after purchase, the disgruntled buyer would have sued Jean personally. If Jean had borrowed 1,000 gold coins to set up his workshop and the business failed, he would have had to repay the loan by selling his private property his house, his cow, his land. He might even have had to sell his children into servitude. If he couldn’t cover the debt, he could be thrown in prison by the state or enslaved by his creditors. He was fully liable, without limit, for all obligations incurred by his workshop.

If you had lived back then, you would probably have thought twice before you opened an enterprise of your own. And indeed this legal situation discouraged entrepreneurship. People were afraid to start new businesses and take economic risks. It hardly seemed worth taking the chance that their families could end up utterly destitute.

This is why people began collectively to imagine the existence of limited liability companies. Such companies were legally independent of the people who set them up, or invested money in them, or managed them. Over the last few centuries such companies have become the main players in the economic arena, and we have grown so used to them that we forget they exist only in our imagination. In the US, the technical term for a limited liability company is a ‘corporation’, which is ironic, because the term derives from ‘corpus’ (‘body’ in Latin) the one thing these corporations lack. Despite their having no real bodies, the American legal system treats corporations as legal persons, as if they were flesh-and-blood human beings.

And so did the French legal system back in 1896, when Armand Peugeot, who had inherited from his parents a metalworking shop that produced springs, saws and bicycles, decided to go into the automobile business. To that end, he set up a limited liability company. He named the company after himself, but it was independent of him. If one of the cars broke down, the buyer could sue Peugeot, but not Armand Peugeot. If the company borrowed millions of francs and then went bust, Armand Peugeot did not owe its creditors a single franc. The loan, after all, had been given to Peugeot, the company, not to Armand Peugeot, the Homo sapiens. Armand Peugeot died in 1915. Peugeot, the company, is still alive and well.

How exactly did Armand Peugeot, the man, create Peugeot, the company? In much the same way that priests and sorcerers have created gods and demons throughout history, and in which thousands of French curés were still creating Christ’s body every Sunday in the parish churches. It all revolved around telling stories, and convincing people to believe them. In the case of the French curés, the crucial story was that of Christ’s life and death as told by the Catholic Church. According to this story, if a Catholic priest dressed in his sacred garments solemnly, said the right words at the right moment, mundane bread and wine turned into God’s flesh and blood. The priest exclaimed, ‘Hoc est corpus meum!’ (Latin for ‘This is my body!’) and hocus pocus the bread turned into Christ’s flesh. Seeing that the priest had properly and assiduously observed all the procedures, millions of devout French Catholics behaved as if God really existed in the consecrated bread and wine.

In the case of Peugeot SA the crucial story was the French legal code, as written by the French parliament. According to the French legislators, if a certified lawyer followed all the proper liturgy and rituals, wrote all the required spells and oaths on a wonderfully decorated piece of paper, and affixed his ornate signature to the bottom of the document, then hocus pocus a new company was incorporated. When in 1896 Armand Peugeot wanted to create his company, he paid a lawyer to go through all these sacred procedures. Once the lawyer had performed all the right rituals and pronounced all the necessary spells and oaths, millions of upright French citizens behaved as if the Peugeot company really existed.

Telling effective stories is not easy. The difficulty lies not in telling the story, but in convincing everyone else to believe it. Much of history revolves around this question: how does one convince millions of people to believe particular stories about gods, or nations, or limited liability companies? Yet when it succeeds, it gives Sapiens immense power, because it enables millions of strangers to cooperate and work towards common goals. Just try to imagine how difficult it would have been to create states, or churches, or legal systems if we could speak only about things that really exist, such as rivers, trees and lions.

Over the years, people have woven an incredibly complex network of stories. Within this network, fictions such as Peugeot not only exist, but also accumulate immense power. The kinds of things that people create through this network of stories are known in academic circles as ‘fictions’, ‘social constructs’ or ‘imagined realities’. An imagined reality is not a lie. I lie when I say that there is a lion near the river when I know perfectly well that there is no lion there. There is nothing special about lies. Green monkeys and chimpanzees can lie. A green monkey, for example, has been observed calling ‘Careful! A lion!’ when there was no lion around. This alarm conveniently frightened away a fellow monkey who had just found a banana, leaving the liar all alone to steal the prize for itself.

Unlike lying, an imagined reality is something that everyone believes in, and as long as this communal belief persists, the imagined reality exerts force in the world. The sculptor from the Stadel Cave may sincerely have believed in the existence of the lion-man guardian spirit. Some sorcerers are Charlatans, but most sincerely believe in the existence of gods and demons. Most millionaires sincerely believe in the existence of money and limited liability companies. Most human-rights activists sincerely believe in the existence of human rights. No one was lying when, in 2011, the UN demanded that the Libyan government respect the human rights of its citizens, even though the UN, Libya and human rights are all figments of our fertile imaginations.

Ever since the Cognitive Revolution, Sapiens have thus been living in a dual reality. On the one hand, the objective reality of rivers, trees and lions; and on the other hand, the imagined reality of gods, nations and corporations. As time went by, the imagined reality became ever more powerful, so that today the very survival of rivers, trees and lions depends on the grace of imagined entities such as the United States and Google.

Bypassing the Genome

The ability to create an imagined reality out of words enabled large numbers of strangers to cooperate effectively. But it also did something more. Since large-scale human cooperation is based on myths, the way people cooperate can be altered by changing the myths, by telling different stories. Under the right circumstances myths can change rapidly. In 1789 the French population switched almost overnight from believing in the myth of the divine right of kings to believing in the myth of the sovereignty of the people.

Consequently, ever since the Cognitive Revolution Homo sapiens has been able to revise its behaviour rapidly in accordance with changing needs. This opened a fast lane of cultural evolution, bypassing the traffic jams of genetic evolution. Speeding down this fast lane, Homo sapiens soon far outstripped all other human and animal species in its ability to cooperate.

The behaviour of other social animals is determined to a large extent by their genes. DNA is not an autocrat. Animal behaviour is also influenced by environmental factors and individual quirks. Nevertheless, in a given environment, animals of the same species will tend to behave in a similar way. Significant changes in social behaviour cannot occur, in general, without genetic mutations. For example, common chimpanzees have a genetic tendency to live in hierarchical groups headed by an alpha male. Members of a closely related chimpanzee species, bonobos, usually live in more egalitarian groups dominated by female alliances. Female common chimpanzees cannot take lessons from their bonobo relatives and stage a feminist revolution. Male chimps cannot gather in a constitutional assembly to abolish the office of alpha male and declare that from here on out all chimps are to be treated as equals. Such dramatic changes in behaviour would occur only if something changed in the chimpanzees’ DNA.

For similar reasons, archaic humans did not initiate any revolutions. As far as we can tell, changes in social patterns, the invention of new technologies and the settlement of alien habitats resulted from genetic mutations and environmental pressures more than from cultural initiatives. This is why it took humans hundreds of thousands of years to make these steps. Two million years ago, genetic mutations resulted in the appearance of a new human species called Homo erectus. Its emergence was accompanied by the development of a new stone tool technology, now recognised as a defining feature of this species. As long as Homo erectus did not undergo further genetic alterations, its stone tools remained roughly the same for close to 2 million years!

In contrast, ever since the Cognitive Revolution, Sapiens have been able to change their behaviour quickly, transmitting new behaviours to future generations without any need of genetic or environmental change. As a prime example, consider the repeated appearance of childless elites, such as the Catholic priesthood, Buddhist monastic orders and Chinese eunuch bureaucracies. The existence of such elites goes against the most fundamental principles of natural selection, since these dominant members of society willingly give up procreation. Whereas chimpanzee alpha males use their power to have sex with as many females as possible and consequently sire a large proportion of their troop’s young the Catholic alpha male abstains completely from sexual intercourse and childcare. This abstinence does not result from unique environmental conditions such as a severe lack of food or want of potential mates. Nor is it the result of some quirky genetic mutation. The Catholic Church has survived for centuries, not by passing on a ‘celibacy gene’ from one pope to the next, but by passing on the stories of the New Testament and of Catholic canon law.

In other words, while the behaviour patterns of archaic humans remained fixed for tens of thousands of years, Sapiens could transform their social structures, the nature of their interpersonal relations, their economic activities and a host of other behaviours within a decade or two. Consider a resident of Berlin, born in 1900 and living to the ripe age of one hundred. She spent her childhood in the Hohenzollern Empire of Wilhelm ll; her adult years in the Weimar Republic, the Nazi Third Reich and Communist East Germany; and she died a citizen of a democratic and reunified Germany. She had managed to be a part of five very different sociopolitical systems, though her DNA remained exactly the same.

This was the key to Sapiens’ success. In a one-on-one brawl, a Neanderthal would probably have beaten a Sapiens. But in a conflict of hundreds, Neanderthals wouldn’t stand a chance. Neanderthals could share information about the whereabouts of lions, but they probably could not tell and revise stories about tribal spirits. Without an ability to compose fiction, Neanderthals were unable to cooperate effectively in large numbers, nor could they adapt their social behaviour to rapidly changing challenges.

While we can’t get inside a Neanderthal mind to understand how they thought, we have indirect evidence of the limits to their cognition compared with their Sapiens rivals. Archaeologists excavating 30,000 year old Sapiens sites in the European heartland occasionally find there seashells from the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts. In all likelihood, these shells got to the continental interior through long distance trade between different Sapiens bands. Neanderthal sites lack any evidence of such trade. Each group manufactured its own tools from local materials.

Another example comes from the South Pacific. Sapiens bands that lived on the island of New Ireland, north of New Guinea, used a volcanic glass called obsidian to manufacture particularly strong and sharp tools. New Ireland, however, has no natural deposits of obsidian. Laboratory tests revealed that the obsidian they used was brought from deposits on New Britain, an island 400 kilometres away. Some of the inhabitants of these islands must have been skilled navigators who traded from island to island over long distances.

Trade may seem a very pragmatic activity, one that needs no fictive basis. Yet the fact is that no animal other than Sapiens engages in trade, and all the Sapiens trade networks about which we have detailed evidence were based on fictions. Trade cannot exist without trust, and it is very difficult to trust strangers. The global trade network of today is based on our trust in such fictional entities as the dollar, the Federal Reserve Bank, and the totemic trademarks of corporations. When two strangers in a tribal society want to trade, they will often establish trust by appealing to a common god, mythical ancestor or totem animal.

If archaic Sapiens believing in such fictions traded shells and obsidian, it stands to reason that they could also have traded information, thus creating a much denser and wider knowledge network than the one that served Neanderthals and other archaic humans.

Hunting techniques provide another illustration of these differences. Neanderthals usually hunted alone or in small groups. Sapiens, on the other hand, developed techniques that relied on cooperation between many dozens of individuals, and perhaps even between different bands. One particularly effective method was to surround an entire herd of animals, such as wild horses, then chase them into a narrow gorge, where it was easy to slaughter them en masse. If all went according to plan, the bands could harvest tons of meat, fat and animal skins in a single afternoon of collective effort, and either consume these riches in a giant potlatch, or dry, smoke or (in Arctic areas) freeze them for later usage. Archaeologists have discovered sites where entire herds were butchered annually in such ways. There are even sites where fences and obstacles were erected in order to create artificial traps and slaughtering grounds.

We may presume that Neanderthals were not pleased to see their traditional hunting grounds turned into Sapiens controlled slaughterhouses. However, if violence broke out between the two species, Neanderthals were not much better off than wild horses. Fifty Neanderthals cooperating in traditional and static patterns were no match for 500 versatile and innovative Sapiens. And even if the Sapiens lost the first round, they could quickly invent new stratagems that would enable them to win the next time.

What happened in the Cognitive Revolution?

The immense diversity of imagined realities that Sapiens invented, and the resulting diversity of behaviour patterns, are the main components of what we call ‘cultures’. Once cultures appeared, they never ceased to change and develop, and these unstoppable alterations are what we call ‘history’.

The Cognitive Revolution is accordingly the point when history declared its independence from biology. Until the Cognitive Revolution, the doings of all human species belonged to the realm of biology, or, if you so prefer, prehistory (I tend to avoid the term ‘prehistory’, because it wrongly implies that even before the Cognitive Revolution, humans were in a category of their own). From the Cognitive Revolution onwards, historical narratives replace biological theories as our primary means of explaining the development of Homo sapiens. To understand the rise of Christianity or the French Revolution, it is not enough to comprehend the interaction of genes, hormones and organisms. It is necessary to take into account the interaction of ideas, images and fantasies as well.

This does not mean that Homo sapiens and human culture became exempt from biological laws. We are still animals, and our physical, emotional and cognitive abilities are still shaped by our DNA. Our societies are built from the same building blocks as Neanderthal or chimpanzee societies, and the more we examine these building blocks, sensations, emotions, family ties, the less difference we find between us and other apes.

It is, however, a mistake to look for the differences at the level of the individual or the family. One on one, even ten on ten, we are embarrassingly similar to chimpanzees. Significant differences begin to appear only when we cross the threshold of 150 individuals, and when we reach 1,000-2,000 individuals, the differences are astounding. If you tried to bunch together thousands of chimpanzees into Tiananmen Square, Wall Street, the Vatican or the headquarters of the United Nations, the result would be pandemonium. By contrast, Sapiens regularly gather by the thousands in such places. Together, they create orderly patterns such as trade networks, mass celebrations and political institutions that they could never have created in isolation. The real difference between us and chimpanzees is the mythical glue that binds together large numbers of individuals, families and groups. This glue has made us the masters of creation.

Of course, we also needed other skills, such as the ability to make and use tools. Yet tool-making is of little consequence unless it is coupled with the ability to cooperate with many others. How is it that we now have intercontinental missiles with nuclear warheads, whereas 30,000 years ago we had only sticks with flint spearheads? Physiologically, there has been no significant improvement in our tool-making capacity over the last 30,000 years. Albert Einstein was far less dexterous with his hands than was an ancient hunter-gatherer. However, our capacity to cooperate with large numbers of strangers has improved dramatically. The ancient flint spearhead was manufactured in minutes by a single person, who relied on the advice and help of a few intimate friends. The production of a modern nuclear warhead requires the cooperation of millions of strangers all over the world from the workers who mine the uranium ore in the depths of the earth to theoretical physicists who write long mathematical formulae to describe the interactions of subatomic particles.

To summarise the relationship between biology and history after the Cognitive Revolution:

1. Biology sets the basic parameters for the behaviour and capacities of Homo sapiens. The whole of history takes place within the bounds of this biological arena.

2. However, this arena is extraordinarily large, allowing Sapiens to play an astounding variety of games. Thanks to their ability to invent fiction, Sapiens create more and more complex games, which each generation develops and elaborates even further.

3. Consequently, in order to understand how Sapiens behave, we must describe the historical evolution of their actions. Referring only to our biological constraints would be like a radio sportscaster who, attending the World Cup football championships, offers his listeners a detailed description of the playing field rather than an account of what the players are doing.

What games did our Stone Age ancestors play in the arena of history? As far as we know, the people who carved the Stadel lion-man some 30,000 years ago had the same physical, emotional and intellectual abilities we have. What did they do when they woke up in the morning? What did they eat for breakfast and lunch? What were their societies like? Did they have monogamous relationships and nuclear families? Did they have ceremonies, moral codes, sports contests and religious rituals? Did they fight wars? The next chapter takes a peek behind the curtain of the ages, examining what life was like in the millennia separating the Cognitive Revolution from the Agricultural Revolution.

3. A Day in the Life of Adam and Eve

TO UNDERSTAND OUR nature, history and psychology, we must get inside the heads of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. For nearly the entire history of our species, Sapiens lived as foragers. The past 200 years, during which ever increasing numbers of Sapiens have obtained their daily bread as urban labourers and office workers, and the preceding 10,000 years, during which most Sapiens lived as farmers and herders, are the blink of an eye compared to the tens of thousands of years during which our ancestors hunted and gathered.

The flourishing field of evolutionary psychology argues that many of our present-day social and psychological characteristics were shaped during this long preagricultural era. Even today, scholars in this field claim, our brains and minds are adapted to a life of hunting and gathering. Our eating habits, our conflicts and our sexuality are all the result of the way our hunter-gatherer minds interact with our current post-industrial environment, with its mega-cities, aeroplanes, telephones and computers. This environment gives us more material resources and longer lives than those enjoyed by any previous generation, but it often makes us feel alienated, depressed and pressured.

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from

Sapiens, A Brief History of Humankind

by Yuval Noah Harari

get it at Amazon.com

Inequality breeds stress and anxiety. No wonder so many Britons are suffering – Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett.

Studies of people who are most into our consumerist culture have found that they are the least happy, the most insecure and often suffer poor mental health.

Understanding inequality means recognising that it increases school shootings, bullying, anxiety levels, mental illness and consumerism because it threatens feelings of self-worth.

In equal societies, citizens trust each other and contribute to their community. This goes into reverse in countries like ours.

The gap between image and reality yawns ever wider. Our rich society is full of people presenting happy smiling faces both in person and online, but when the Mental Health Foundation commissioned a large survey last year, it found that 74% of adults were so stressed they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope. Almost a third had had suicidal thoughts and 16% had selfharmed at some time in their lives. The figures were higher for women than men, and substantially higher for young adults than for older age groups. And rather than getting better, the long-term trends in anxiety and mental illness are upwards.

For a society that believes happiness is a product of high incomes and consumption, these figures are baffling. However, studies of people who are most into our consumerist culture have found that they are the least happy, the most insecure and often suffer poor mental health.

An important part of the explanation involves the psychological effects of inequality. The greater the material differences between us, th