Ulysses and the Sirens, vase, c. 475 BC
The ancient Greek myth of Ulysses is deeply embedded in our culture and continues to stimulate writers. The myth has also been plundered by political scientists. For them the tale of Ulysses and the Sirens has been particularly influential.
We need to be careful about the allegorical meanings drawn by political scientists from this tale. The one we should pay attention to is about the flawed personalities of our leaders. In general, we should pay more attention to Penelope, the wife Ulysses left behind.
As a novelist, John Buchan is remembered, if he is remembered at all, for ‘The Thirty Nine Steps’. It is an early (1915) example of the modern spy novel. Its dashing main character is the forerunner of James Bond.
John Buchan’s last novel ‘Sick Heart River’ published in 1941, the year after he died, is on a totally different theme. It is about what social psychologists now refer to as ‘disassociation’ and ‘role strain’.
‘Role strain’ is an important concept in thinking about the regulatory space and the tasks of government.