Kissinger, Sayre, and "vicious university politics for small stakes"

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Wed Sep 29 02:47:48 UTC 2004

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... for Question Clarification by justaskscott-ga on 24 Sep 2004 09:07 PDT "University
politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small." This phrase ... - 8k - Cached - Similar pages

People of the Word; People
By DANIEL STERN. New York Times (1857-Current file). New York, N.Y.: Jul 31, 1977. p. BR4 (2 pages):
Someone once told me that the reason the infighting in academia is so fierce is that the stakes are so small.

Humorous Findings In the University Library; Book World BEGGARS AND CHOOSERS. By Laura Kalpakian (Little, Brown. 499 pp. $9.95)
Reviewed by Charles Larson. The Washington Post (1974-Current file). Washington, D.C.: May 30, 1978. p. B6 (1 page)
(Can't open it--ed.)

   Walla Walla Union Bulletin  Wednesday, January 30, 1974 Walla Walla, Washington
...shores when the appAREnt STAKES ARE SO. SMALL. It is a realistic attitude.....can grow them. Grain stocks ARE now SO low that legislation has been..

   Chronicle Telegram  Friday, September 16, 1983 Elyria, Ohio
...ARE SO vicious because the STAKES ARE SO SMALL. PEANUTS By Charles M. Dr.....Don't rush things, even if urged to do SO. ARIES (March 21-April 19) You ARE..
Pg. C-4, col. 1:
Peter's Theory of Professional Infighting: Academics on higher education are so vicious because the stakes are so small.
(Dr. Laurence J. Peter--ed.)

The Best and Brightest
Wall Street Journal (1889-Current file). New York, N.Y.: Sep 1, 1983. p. 24 (1 page):
Henry Kissinger, questioned once about where he acquired his facility for political intrigue, remarked that he had learned it all as a college professor. Academic politics, he said, is so bitter precisely because the stakes are so small.



Jonathan Kaufman, Globe Staff
3,187 words
25 July 1988
The Boston Globe
(Copyright 1988)

AMHERST - McGeorge Bundy once mused that battles in academia are so bitter because the stakes are so small.


The War of Words, From the Trenches

1,285 words
15 January 1990
The Washington Post
(Copyright 1990)

What has for years been said about academic politics most certainly can be said about literary politics as well: Why is it so vicious? Because the stakes are so small.


The Army-Navy Game

Ronald Spector
827 words
2 August 1992
The Washington Post
(Copyright 1992)

FIRST CALL The Making of the Modern U.S. Military, 1945-53 By Thomas D. Boettcher Little Brown. 464 pp. $27.50

ACCORDING TO an oft-repeated story, Henry Kissinger was once asked why disputes among college professors were so bitter. He responded, "Because the stakes are so small."

Denver & The West

The failed coup attempt in Boulder was a victory for the public

898 words
24 January 1994
Denver Post
(Copyright 1994)

Henry Kissinger is credited with the line "Academic politics is so vicious because the stakes are so small."

Reflections on Academia (in Forum)
A Wuffle
PS, Vol. 19, No. 1. (Winter, 1986), pp. 57-61
Pg. 58:
University politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.
Attributed to Henry Kissinger.

Arthur S. Banks; Martin Gruberg; Herbert Kaufman
PS, Vol. 10, No. 4. (Autumn, 1977), pp. 510-511.
Pg. 511:
To the Editor:
In the August 20 and 27 issue of _The New Republic_, an editorial entitled "A Humanist at the Humanities" inadvertently conveyed a false impression. "The republic of learning and letters," said the editorial, "works by squabbling--especially bitter squabbling, Henry Kissinger used to say, because the stakes are so small." One might infer from this that Dr. Kissinger originated the line.

Actually, it is a version one of Sayre's Laws, observations on the worlds of academe and politics pronounced from time to time by the late Wallace S. Sayre, who was professor of political scient at Columbia University. Professor Sayre's formulation was, "The politics of the university are so intense because the stakes are so low." A more general statement of it appeared, correctly attributed, in Charles Issawu, _Issawi's Laws of Social Motion_ (Hawthorn, 1973), p. 178.

The paternity of such laws is frequently ambiguous and disputed, but this is one of those rare cases in which I am sure scores of people will verify my statement of its origin. Many of them have known it as Sayre's Law for decades; I myself first heard it from his lips more than a quarter of a century ago, and that was not the first time he had enunciated it. It has been around a long time.

I'm sure that when he cited it, Dr, Kissinger did not mean to imply that he originated it, any more than I expect to be given credit for Newton's laws because I am wont to remark that to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction (a real conversation-stopper at cocktail parties) or for Einstein's laws because I am inclined to stun listeners with the comment that everything's relative. Mind you, I do lay claim to a law or two, but only to those I believe I coined. I have no doubt that Dr. Kissinger would wish to do the same; indeed, he himself may be able to confirm Sayre as the source of the law implicitly ascribed to Kissinger in the editorial.

Perhaps this is the time to record publicly tow more of Wallace Sayr'e laws. Observing that the mayoralty of New York is often referred to as the second biggest executive office in the country, that U.S. Representative is the highest previous political office held by any incumbent, and that no New York mayor ever went on to other high domestic public office after leaving the mayoralty, Sayre declared, "The mayors of New York come from nowhere and go nowhere." He also remarked that, "Generally speaking, the benefits of administrative reorganization are immediate, but the costs are cumulative." These are a couple of pronouncements to give us pause these days!

Herbert Kaufman
Senior Fellow
Brookings Institution

Sayre and Kaufman's New York: Competition without Chaos (in Reviews of Books and Documents)
Governing New York City: Politics in the Metropolis
Wallace S. Sayre; Herbert Kaufman
Review author[s]: Norton E. Long
Public Administration Review, Vol. 21, No. 1. (Winter, 1961), pp. 23-30.
Pg. 26:
Perhaps to Sayre's law concerning the Mayors of New York becoming Mayors of New York, we can add the Sayre and Kaufman law of political visibility: the more visible, the more vulnerable, the more responsible.

(GOVERNING NEW YORK CITY: POLITICS IN THE METROPOLIS, by Willace S. Sayre and Herbert Kaufman, Russell Sage Foundation, 1960.--ed.)

(Let's see what Google Answers comes up with. They get paid more than I do...I'll probably add Sayre's Law about New York mayors to my web page. Rudy won't like it, though--ed.)

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