Thursday, August 07, 2014

Another Opinion

There's a book, now in paperback, that I've noticed in the racks: Assholes: A Theory by philosophy professor Aaron James.  It seems to be selling well.  Certainly has an eye-catching title.  Perhaps James was inspired by the bestseller of several years ago, On Bullshit. I approve of earthy, no-nonsense titles for books of philosophy.  A lot better than hiding behind jargon.

I haven't gotten around to reading it, but I did check out the copy on the back, which includes this:

Much as Machiavelli illuminated political strategy for princes, this book finally gives us the concepts to think or say why assholes disturb us so, and explains why such people seem part of the human social condition, especially in an age of raging narcissism and unbridled capitalism.

This doesn't make the book sound very serious.  This is just a cheap appeal to mindless prejudice.

An age of raging narcissism?  Perhaps--I don't know how you'd measure it--but I'm sure there have been plenty of other eras where the people bemoan how narcissistic society has become.

Then the out-of-left-field shot at unbridled capitalism. (For the sake of argument, I will assume we have it.)  Does capitalism, which leads to so much good, also leads to more assholes per square inch?  Once again, perhaps, but it's hardly obvious.  I suppose it leads to more freedom, and people might abuse it, but really, do you imagine if society were filled with, say, more bureaucrats and regulations, that somehow the asshole quotient would lessen? (And if it did, would it be worth it?)

I'm shocked the professor (if he wrote this--could be someone at the publishing house) is so confident that he can assume his audience will simply nod their heads knowingly at an attack on capitalism.  Maybe this is a common feeling in academia (though I hope not), but I thought this book was written for a general audience.

I guess in an earlier age, the writer would be blaming other things for roiling society and making us forget about common courtesy--kids reading comic books, poor people thinking they're as good as the rich, women voting, whatever.

By the way, why didn't he blame the internet too?  Or does James like the internet?

4 Comments:

Blogger ColumbusGuy said...

assholes per square inch-now there's a kpi.

Although to be honest I thought that was fixed per capita.

3:37 AM, August 07, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Capitalism is like smoking. It is just assumed bad by right thinking people (that is, non-right thinking people).


A rather narrow take on freedom here

5:46 AM, August 07, 2014  
Blogger LAGuy said...

Please explain the narrow take on freedom. Allowing people to make contracts as they see fit is not only a form of freedom itself, but disallowing it requires all sorts of attempts by the government to limit what citizens can do.

9:50 AM, August 07, 2014  
Blogger ColumbusGuy said...

Interesting. You think that's anonymous writing? I thought it was anonymous two. If it's anonymous, quite a little self-parody.

3:17 PM, August 07, 2014  

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