Master of Arts (MA)
Semester of Degree Completion
Andrea L. Bonnicksen
In 1972 James Barger published his book The Presidential Character: Predicting Performance in the White House. In this book Barber tries to typify the American Presidents, beginning with William H. Taft, according to four psycho-political categories: active-positive, active-negative, passive-positive, and passive-negative. The most important part of Barber's thesis is that the future performance of any presidential candidate can be predicted by looking at the factors that place him into a certain category. These factors are his character, his world view and style, the power situation, and the climate of expectations. Character, world view, and style are clearly formed well before the person has enough power and is high enough in the political hierarchy to run for President.
The importance of Barber's theory clearly would be emphasized if his typology could be used to predict the quality of future leaders in other nations. The purpose of this thesis, therefore, is to investigate the applicability of Barber's theory for one political system, West Germany. The setting of Barber's theory requires that a comparison be restricted to political systems having similar institutions and structures as the American system and, although major differences distinguish Germany and the United States, in a qualified sense the President of the United States can be compared to the Bundeskanzler of the Federal Republic of Germany. If it is found that the theory is applicable to West Germany, then this is a first step toward testing the theory's applicability in parliamentary democracies in general.
The research, which for several reasons was restricted to two post-war Chancellors - Konrad Adenauer and Willy Brandt - led to the conclusion that these Chancellors can be rated as active-positive personalities. That they can be categorized into one part of Barber's typology suggests at least a limited applicability of Barber's theory to another political system. Yet this applicability is limited and the thesis goes on to suggest that there is little likelihood that any other personality type will ever reach the German chancellorship for reasons dealing mainly with differences between the two political systems. This suggestion leads to yet another conclusion about the applicability of Barber's theory; namely, that Barber overemphasizes the importance of the personality type and neglects the influence of such outside forces as international politics. In short, Barber's method of rating national leaders by personality types can be transferred to another political system, but Barber's conclusions seem to be overdrawn.
Ahlers, Renate Irene, "James D. Barber: "The Presidential Character": An Attempt of Applicability" (1980). Masters Theses. 3093.