30 October 2005

"The infighting is so vicious because the stakes are so low."

I've learned most of what I know about nonprofit management from fortune cookies.

But every so often someone from the academy, or from a scary religious sect, makes a comment about his or her own organization that sheds a lot of light on the nonprofit sector. In this case, it was an applied physics nerd talking about a highly respected research institution:

"The infighting is so vicious because the stakes are so low."

Sometimes we're busy saving the world, and sometimes we're busy rearranging the chairs on the deck of the Titanic. Perhaps the ship will sink no matter what we do, and rearranging the deck chairs is as good a way as any to occupy ourselves in the interim. However, I'd like to believe that if we stopped squabbling (about who gets the best view or the chair closest to the captain's) we might be able to bend our minds to more important tasks.


Dethe Elza said...

Hi there,

I'm enjoying your blog. I showed my wife this quote and wondered if you could give the source of it?



Anonymous said...

The recently published Yale Book of Quotations (Yale University Press) answers this one definitively:

Academic politics is the most vicious and bitter form of politics, because the stakes are so low.
Wallace S. Sayre, Quoted in Wall Street Journal, 20 Dec. 1973. Political scientist Herbert Kaufman has attested to the editor of this dictionary that Sayre usually stated this as "The politics of the university are so intense because the stakes are so low" and that Sayre originated the quip by the early 1950s.

Anonymous said...

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