This essay introduces and defines the concept of the hubris-nemesis complex, illustrates it by drawing upon both mythic characters and real personalities, relates it to other psychological phenomena that have been described well in the past, and discusses some challenges that may be faced in recognizing and dealing with the complex in the course of international relations. The essay argues that the complex is relatively common, but often unappreciated, and that we can see it at work in current-day figures such as Fidel Castro, Saddam Hussein, and Slobodan Milosevic--leaders about whom the United States has made serious misjudgements over the years. Thus, while the essay is intended to be conceptual and scholarly, it may have direct significance for understanding and dealing with foreign leaders in future crises and conflicts.
The research described in this report was conducted in RAND's National Security Research Division.
This report is part of the RAND Corporation Monograph report series. The monograph/report was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1993 to 2003. RAND monograph/reports presented major research findings that addressed the challenges facing the public and private sectors. They included executive summaries, technical documentation, and synthesis pieces.
Permission is given to duplicate this electronic document for personal use only, as long as it is unaltered and complete. Copies may not be duplicated for commercial purposes. Unauthorized posting of RAND PDFs to a non-RAND Web site is prohibited. RAND PDFs are protected under copyright law. For information on reprint and linking permissions, please visit the RAND Permissions page.
The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.