The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement

Brooks, David
ISBN:
9781400067602

With unequaled insight and brio, David Brooks, the New York Times columnist and bestselling author of Bobos in Paradise, has long explored and explained the way we live. Now, with the intellectual curiosity and emotional wisdom that make his columns among the most read in the nation, Brooks turns to the building blocks of human flourishing in a multilayered, profoundly illuminating work grounded in everyday life. This is the story of how success happens. It is told through the lives of one composite American couple, Harold and Erica--how they grow, push forward, are pulled back, fail, and succeed. Distilling a vast array of information into these two vividly realized characters, Brooks illustrates a fundamental new understanding of human nature. A scientific revolution has occurred--we have learned more about the human brain in the last thirty years than we had in the previous three thousand. The unconscious mind, it turns out, is most of the mind--not a dark, vestigial place but a creative and enchanted one, where most of the brain's work gets done. This is the realm of emotions, intuitions, biases, longings, genetic predispositions, personality traits, and social norms: the realm where character is formed and where our most important life decisions are made. The natural habitat of The Social Animal. Drawing on a wealth of current research from numerous disciplines, Brooks takes Harold and Erica from infancy to school; from the "odyssey years" that have come to define young adulthood to the high walls of poverty; from the nature of attachment, love, and commitment, to the nature of effective leadership. He reveals the deeply social aspect of our very minds and exposes the bias in modern culture that overemphasizes rationalism, individualism, and IQ. Along the way, he demolishes conventional definitions of success while looking toward a culture based on trust and humility. The Social Animal is a moving and nuanced intellectual adventure, a story of achievement and a defense of progress. Impossible to put down, it is an essential book for our time, one that will have broad social impact and will change the way we see ourselves and the world. Editorial Reviews From Barnes & Noble Ever affable, ever curious New York Times columnist David Brooks (Bobos in Paradise) has been pursuing the study of human nature for decades. The fruition of this study, at least for the present, is The Social Animal, an extraordinarily accessible look at what we now know about how the human mind works. As Brooks notes, recent breakthrough brain research has provided unprecedented breakthroughs about the human brain, especially about its dominant unconscious function. To elucidate these discoveries, Brooks conjures up Harold and Erica, a "composite couple" who develop over time in ways that our ancestors could scarcely understand. A most approachable approach to root human nature. Publishers Weekly New York Times columnist Brooks (Bobos in Paradise) raids Malcolm Gladwell's pop psychology turf in a wobbly treatise on brain science, human nature, and public policy. Essentially a satirical novel interleaved with disquisitions on mirror neurons and behavioral economics, the narrative chronicles the life cycle of a fictional couple--Harold, a historian working at a think tank, and Erica, a Chinese-Chicana cable-TV executive--as a case study of the nonrational roots of social behaviors, from mating and shopping to voting. Their story lets Brooks mock the affluent and trendy while advancing soft neoconservative themes: that genetically ingrained emotions and biases trump reason; that social problems require cultural remedies (charter schools, not welfare payments); that the class divide is about intelligence, deportment, and taste, not money or power. Brooks is an engaging guide to the "cognitive revolution" in psychology, but what he shows us amounts mainly to restating platitudes. (Women like men with money, we learn, while men like women with breasts.) His attempt to inflate recent research on neural mechanisms into a grand worldview yields little except buzz concepts--"society is a layering of networks"--no more persuasive than the rationalist dogmas he derides. (Mar.) Paul Bloom ...sharp, clear and often very funny...Many of us, Brooks believes, are in the grip of an outdated theory of human nature. We give priority to cold-blooded reason, to deliberative, conscious, logical and linear thought...[but] Brain research, Brooks tells us, "reminds us of the relative importance of emotion over pure reason, social connections over individual choice, character over IQ." Brooks is right that many psychologists, philosophers and neuroscientists believe this to be true. The Social Animal is a savvy, accessible and enthusiastic defense of their position--they are lucky to have him on their side. --The Washington Post From the Publisher "Authoritative, impressively learned, and vast in scope."--Newsweek "As in [Bobos in Paradise] he shows genius in sketching archetypes and coining phrases. . . . In The Social Animal Mr. Brooks surveys a stunning amount of research and cleverly connects it to everyday experience."--The Wall Street Journal "[A] fascinating study of the unconscious mind and its impact on our lives . . . Brooks has done well to draw such vivid attention to the wide implications of the accumulated research on the mind and the triggers of human behaviour."--The Economist "An uncommonly brilliant blend of sociology, intellect and allegory."--Kirkus Reviews (starred revew) "Provocative and fascinating . . . seeks to do nothing less than revolutionize our notions about how we function and conduct our lives."--The Philadelphia Inquirer "Multifaceted, compulsively readable . . . Brooks's considerable achievement comes in his ability to elevate the unseen aspects of private experience into a vigorous and challenging conversation about what we all share."--San Francisco Chronicle From the Hardcover edition.

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