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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Battles between Somebodies and Nobodies: Combat Abuse of Rank at Work and at Home » User review

Reductionist and jargony text I found hard to get through

  • Jul 22, 2009
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Henry David Thoreau famously warned us to "beware of all enterprises that require new clothes," and a good corollary to that might be "beware all books on interpersonal conflict that require learning a new language." For "Battles Between Somebodies and Nobodies" relies on a fairly specialized vocabulary, not only of words you thought you knew like "somebody" and "nobody," but also "rankism," "right-rank," "dog-kickers," "gatekeepers," and more. I quickly came across some other speed bumps when starting to read this, like the author's statement that she started writing this book primarily because she was so impressed with a similar one by Robert W. Fuller, or the egregious rendering (twice!) of writer Alain de Botton's name as "Alian DeButton." But really, it was the jargon, and the reductionist thinking it leads to, that made this book difficult for me to finish.

Fuller's insight, as presented and expanded-upon by Julie Ann Wambach, is that "all abuse is based on misuse of position" (p. xxii). This is codified as "rankism" -- "promotion of oneself and one's interests while bringing harm to a person or community" (p. 18). Viewed that way, just about anything bad in human history can be invoked as an example of "rankism," and sure enough, among the examples Dr. Wambach gives us are the American Civil War and the September 11 attacks (p. 23), the Russian Revolution ("Why did the Russian people revolt? Because the Tsar was ruthless and unfair" [p. 32]), and the second world war ("Hitler: Nobody turned Somebody Rankist" [p. 58]). Sure puts your resentment about having to work on Saturdays into perspective, doesn't it? Dr. Wambaugh warns us to reject labels, saying "If we think rankists are simply evil, we are not inclined to bridge the chasm between perpetrator and target. It is more productive for us to recognize rankist behavior as neurotic, as maladaptive. Rankists are trying to safeguard their own self-esteem ... They want a system that protects them as they figure out the future" (p. 61). Not to be flip, but this must be what happens when you analyze human interactions through the lens of the dynamics of a troop of baboons or a pack of wolves. I'm bold to suggest that there was more to world war two than "Hitler had self-esteem issues," and that there is more involved in most human interactions than the constant jockeying for status and position.

I know that this review is out of step with the others posted here at the time of my writing, and I don't begrudge others who have found something useful in Dr. Wambach's work. In my reading, though, "Battles Between Somebodies and Nobodies" suffers from being simultaneously too broadly and imprecisely defined, and too narrowly focused, for me really to be able to integrate it with my own life and personal relationships.

(Finally, I should note too that Dr. Wambach's definition of "anarchy" is odd too. At one point, she writes of "the anarchist's dream of a society where everyone is equal in everything," pointing out "we do not ask a composer of symphonies to fix our roof or a farmer to remove an appendix" [p. 29]. But which "anarchists" have called for absolute equality of skills? A few pages later, she says "anarchists espouse decisions by consensus" [p. 31]. This too came as a surprise. "Anarchy" simply means "no ruler" [an + archos]. Understanding the proper and improper uses of authority, as a right understanding of "anarchy" can lead to, actually seems like a pretty good way to start unraveling the conflicts between "somebodies" and "nobodies" Dr. Wambach rightly decries.)

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More Battles between Somebodies and... reviews
review by . February 06, 2009
Other than the introduction of the term "rankism", the abuse of position within a hierarchy, there is very little in this book that has not been covered elsewhere. Like it or not hierarchies are a fundamental component of human existence, their presence in flocks and herds of animals indicates that there may be a biological basis for them. Therefore, the issue is not that they exist but that they are misused. A person that misuses a rank distinction is called a Somebody Rankist.    Wambach …
review by . January 04, 2009
This is truly a unique and helpful book. As a matter of fact, it is one of the most helpful books in this genre I have had the pleasure reading over the years. The author, Julie Ann Wambach Ph.D. has, to begin with, done a tremendous amount of excellent research is putting this offering together, but I strongly suspect that the strength of her words, observations and advice come more from her obvious abilities in the observation of her fellow humans and in her ability to interpret these observations. …
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Andrew S. Rogers ()
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Mostly, I'm a moderately prolific Amazon.com reviewer who's giving Lunch a try as another venue for my reviews.
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Wambach's role as a dispute mediator and counselor prompted her to assemble this book on the dynamics of power and handling situations wherein power is abused. The author delves into the nature of hierarchies and notes that conflict within social groups turns into rankism when those in charge promote themselves and their interests while bringing harm to a person or community. Wambach explores both overt rankists, such as tyrants and gangsters, and covert rankists, such as snubbers and gatekeepers, and advises on how to handle their power plays. Nobody rankists are also analyzed, as they retaliate by placating, flattering, or gossiping. This insightful book, written for a college-level audience and beyond, could potentially serve a wide audience, especially among business self-help readers. --Deborah Bigelow, Director, Leonia P.L., NJ - Library Journal

School shootings, abuses of power in the workplace, and spousal or child abuse are results of what Dr. Julie Wambach calls rankism, or the abuse of position within a hierarchy. Wambach identifies rankists as individuals who move to meet their personal needs while depriving others of their own. They treat humans as objects without concern for individual feelings or safety. Rankist behaviors, whether exhibited by those considered somebodies, or those seen as nobodies within a group, have damaging consequences for the individuals who engage in them, the groups to which they belong, and often, to innocent bystanders. All social ...
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ISBN-10: 0981481809
ISBN-13: 978-0981481807
Author: Julie Ann Wambach
Publisher: Brookside Press

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