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The Impulse Society

America in the Age of Instant Gratification

This book can be downloaded and read in Apple Books on your Mac or iOS device.


It's something most of us have sensed for years-the rise of a world defined only by "mine†? and "now.†? A world where business shamelessly seeks the fastest reward, regardless of the long-term social consequences; where political leaders reflexively choose short-term fixes over broad, sustainable social progress; where individuals feel increasingly exploited by a marketplace obsessed with our private cravings yet oblivious to our spiritual well-being or the larger needs of our families and communities.

At the heart of The Impulse Society is an urgent, powerful story: how the pursuit of short-term self-gratification, once scorned as a sign of personal weakness, became the default principle not only for individuals, but for all sectors of our society. Drawing on the latest research in economics, psychology, political philosophy, and business management, Paul Roberts shows how a potent combination of rapidly advancing technologies, corrupted ideologies, and bottom-line business ethics has pushed us across a threshold to an unprecedented state: a virtual merging of the market and the self. The result is a socioeconomic system ruled by impulse, by the reflexive, id-like drive for the largest, quickest, most "efficient†? reward, without regard for long-term costs to ourselves or to broader society.

More than thirty years ago, Christopher Lasch hinted at this bleak world in his landmark book, The Culture of Narcissism. In The Impulse Society, Roberts shows how that self-destructive pattern has grown so pervasive that anxiety and emptiness are becoming embedded in our national character. Yet it is in this unease that Roberts finds clear signs of change-and broad revolt as millions of Americans try step off the self-defeating treadmill of gratification and restore a sense of balance. Fresh, vital, and free of ideological, right-wing/left-wing formulations, The Impulse Society shows the way back to a world of real and lasting good.

From Publishers Weekly

May 26, 2014 – Veteran journalist Roberts (The End of Oil) cogently analyzes the nation's self-gratifying socioeconomic system in which individuals, politicians, and CEOs ignore society's needs in favor of short-term fixes and profits. Whereas a century ago, most economic activity focused on producing necessities, today 70% of the economy centers on consumption, much of it discretionary, driven by our "aspirations and hopes, our identities... anxieties and our boredom." As Roberts explains, an economy reoriented to giving us what we want "isn't the best for delivering what we need." Adept at synthesizing disparate data, Roberts traces the country's economic history to contextualize what led to our increasingly market-driven behavior. He illustrates how signs of the "impulse society" are everywhere: in the toxic housing bubble and access to easy credit that led to our financial meltdown; corporate profits that go to buying back company stock to preserve share prices and executive compensation; a political system that functions more like a business; the role of the media in sorting us into marketing fragments, leading to our politically polarized culture; and the increase in the number of people being diagnosed with symptoms of clinical narcissism, among other issues. Not all doom and gloom, Roberts highlights promising developments such as the Affordable Care Act and growing bipartisan support for campaign finance reform, and offers plausible suggestions for a way forward.
The Impulse Society
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  • $12.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Sociology
  • Published: Sep 02, 2014
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
  • Seller: INscribe Digital
  • Print Length: 320 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: This book can only be viewed on an iOS device with Apple Books on iOS 12 or later, iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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