From Publishers Weekly
The indictment of American society offered here—that America's supercharged free-market capitalism shackles us to a treadmill of overwork and overconsumption, frays family and community ties and leaves us anxious, alienated and overweight—is familiar. What's more idiosyncratic and compelling is the author's grounding his treatise in political economy (citing everyone from Adam Smith to Thorstein Veblen) as well as in neuropsychiatry, primatology and genetics. Psychiatrist Whybrow (Mood Apart
) diagnoses a form of clinical mania in which "the dopamine reward systems of the brain are... hijacked" by pleasurable frenzies like the Internet bubble. Genes are to blame: programmed to crave material rewards on the austere savanna, they go bananas in an economy of superabundance. Americans are particularly susceptible because they are descended from immigrants with a higher frequency of the "exploratory and novelty-seeking D4-7 allele" in the dopamine receptor system, which predisposes them to impulsivity and addiction. The malady is "treatable," Whybrow asserts, not with Paxil but with a vaguely defined program of communitarianism and recovery therapeutics, exemplified by his friends Peanut, a farmer rooted in the land, and Tom, a formerly manic entrepreneur who has learned to live in the present moment. Whybrow's analysis of the contemporary rat race is acute, and by medicalizing the problem he locates it in behavior and genetics—away from the arena of conventional political and economic action where more systemic solutions might surface, but toward a place where individual responsibility can turn "self-interest into social fellowship."
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A fascinating tapestry of fresh insights from psychiatry, anthropology, economics, neuro biology, and genetics. -- Frederick K. Goodwin, Former Director, National Institute of Mental Health, and host of public radio's The Infinite Mind
A provocative and novel meditation on the American fate, as we struggle with depression, obesity and substance abuse. -- Philip Bobbitt, author of The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace, and the Course of History
A trenchant indictment of our dominant values and mores, polemical but balanced, written with vigorous inspiration and gripping intensity. -- Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression
This is a brilliant book, which provides convincing genetic explanation for American exceptionalism. -- Deepak Lal, author of Unintended Consequences
[A] fantastically important book. -- Bill McKibben, author of Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age
[A] profound, engrossing, and entertaining, volume. -- Roderic Gorney, author of The Human Agenda
[A]n astute and persuasive account of the stress, overwork, and rampant dissatisfaction permeating modern America. -- Kay Redfield Jamison, author of An Unquiet Mind