“The Rank-Link Imbalance”

15 Mar ’08

David Brooks has really startled me this week – he’s written a piece that fairly nails white shoe professional practice, as well, apparently, as politics, his intended target:

Every society produces its own distinct brand of social misfits, I suppose, but our social structure seems to produce significant numbers of people with rank-link imbalances. That is to say, they have all of the social skills required to improve their social rank, but none of the social skills that lead to genuine bonding. They are good at vertical relationships with mentors and bosses, but bad at horizontal relationships with friends and lovers.

I expect you’d be surprised to learn how common the interpersonal misfit character is in professional practices, even in a town as small as Toronto. But then, I used to care about this much more than I do now, so perhaps it’s something that’s really only of interest to insiders. In any event, I can’t help but wonder who Brooks is writing about – my guess is that a particularly unpleasant encounter with an especially narcissistic politico or campaign operative set him off.

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