The term “megalomania” first came into use in the late 19th century when a French neurologist delivered a paper detailing the condition as one in which “grandiose delusions and delusions of persecution coexist or alternate.” It entered popular use by 1918 and spiked, not serendipitously, around the beginning of World War II. Megalomania as a psychological condition was officially replaced by “narcissistic personality disorder” in 1980, yet the term, denoting a mania for power, a tenuous relationship with reality, and a persecution complex, remains a useful frame through which to view the world—or, at least, many of those who now control it.

For the summer issue, we scoured the globe for instructive case studies. On the political front, Glenda Gloria, co-founder of Rappler, one of the Philippines’ biggest news sites, writes about Rodrigo Duterte’s lethal relationship to language; Joel Pinheiro da Fonseca, a...

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