Writing elsewhere I argued in The Critic that King Charles can be a late bloomer by becoming the builder king. Salon tonight! My salon series How to Read a Novel continues tonight, all about Silas Marner. We would love to see you there. Thomas Carlyle’s Great Man Theory is a fairly discredited view among historians, who don’t tend to take biography seriously. It is self-evidently absurd to take literally Carlyle’s claim that “The History of the world is but the Biography of great men”. Collective forces are real. But we can endorse Carlyle’s theory without abandoning what Auden called the “vast impersonal forces” of history.
For the Common Reader, I share the concept of the Common Leader. Great men are often rated according to their specialty, but having almost completed a long read of Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein, I would argue that some of the greatest men (or women?) are those who have range. Funny, because what I was taught at Berklee Music (Boston) was that we all have to specialize, and yet in Range, they postulate that specialization creates limits and while someone may be defined by a specific event, invention, theorem, its the generalists who can brainstorm and shape our future in ways that are far more significant. Who is smarter? The Russian General who is famous and has studied military tactics and strategies all of his life, or the Ukrainian volunteer who uses a $200 toy drone to advise their military where an enemy tank or group are.
I do not the disclaimers in this post and the statement that every group needs and finds a leader, but is that leader visible or even recognized?
Here's an example. City centers have major issues with traffic congestion and solving the problem of the last mile. City Hall halves the price of public transport, puts a tax on cars and speed limits on urban roads. Outcome, increased traffic congestion. Some nameless people put electric scooters and eBikes on street corners so everyone can use them on demand as a service. We know the name of the Mayor, but which person is in fact the great man (or woman).
I'll get off my soap box now :D