In every facet of postindustrial society - the way we eat, the way we communicate and entertain, the way we work, the way we court lovers and raise children, educate and govern - technology and affluence now let us reach our goals with a speed and efficiency unimaginable even a generation ago. But the result, Paul Roberts warns, is not all milk, honey, and gold. Companies now reflexively maximize short-term gain at the expense of long-term success. Politicians resort with ever-greater speed to nasty campaign tactics, and can count on their damaging claims to spread before the facts catch up with them. Consumers engage in serial over-indulgence in a self-tailored bubble. And the costs are substantial: financial volatility, health epidemics, environmental exhaustion and political paralysis, to say nothing of a growing, gnawing dissatisfaction.
Over 30 years ago, Christopher Lasch published his landmark book, The Culture of Narcissism, which struck a chord and became a runaway best seller. Lasch’s analysis was largely cultural, but the real story has always been an economic one, and the conditions that led to increasing selfishness and the breakdown of society have only gotten worse. Paul Robert digs down to the economic roots of the problem, shows how it has metastisized to affect every facet of our lives and our ability to navigate the future. In clear, cogent prose that mixes illuminating analysis and vibrant reporting, Roberts not only tells the fascinating story of how the impulse society came to be, but shows how, perhaps, a healthier society may still be possible.
“In The Impulse Society, Paul Roberts has written a passionate, keenly observant argument that modern life has become rewired around indulgence. This is a book that taps into a sense that we're all adrift -- and finds that technological, economic, and social change has caused us to lose the community that had anchored us. A society that tries to give (and sell) each of us everything we want, Roberts writes, is a society nobody wants. Roberts harkens back to the greatest critics of American individualism - Tocqueville, Dewey, Nisbet, Lasch, Putnam - and finds a call for community as urgent as ever.” (Evan Soltas, economics columnist, Bloomberg View)
“Paul Roberts has written eloquently on very big topics before--but maybe never quite as eloquently, on quite as central a predicament. I guarantee this will jog your thinking, and perhaps put you on a new path." (Bill McKibben, author of Wandering Home)
“The Impulse Society will shake up our national conversation the way Christopher Lasch’s The Culture of Narcissism did four decades ago. Paul Roberts challenges people of all political views to ask: What happens when instant gratification goes from being a bad personal habit to becoming the driving force in our political and economic life? It’s not pretty, and Roberts is calling us back from the brink.” (E.J. Dionne, author of Our Divided Political Heart)
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We learn from history that we do not learn from...
- Thabo Hermanus