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ENVY: A Theory of Social Behaviour [Paperback]

Helmut Schoeck
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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Book Description

December 1, 1987 0865970645 978-0865970649 Reprint
Modern Political Philosophy

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ENVY: A Theory of Social Behaviour + The Psychology of Jealousy and Envy
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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English, German (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 453 pages
  • Publisher: Liberty Fund; Reprint edition (December 1, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865970645
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865970649
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #439,023 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
65 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant January 3, 2001
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I will never look at politics, society, or myself in the same way ever again. This book is a masterpiece, and Helmut Schoeck does an outstanding job of showing just how influential and pervasive the emotion of envy is in society. He studies societies all over the globe and shows us one of human nature's uglier aspects which seems to be universal. I found in this book many lessons for myself personally, and I obtained a more profound understanding of society, especially in terms of damaging economic policies peddled by expediency-minded, power-hungry politicians which not only reduce the prosperity of the wealthy, but do not improve the lot of the poor which such policies are intended to help. This book is an excellent guide to human nature and societal structure.
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36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating, original cultural analysis June 23, 1998
This book goes down on my list as one of the most interesting non-fiction books I've ever read. It is a sociological\cultural anthropological study of envy. The author looks at written texts from biblical, Greek, and other ancient writings up to the twentieth century. He surveys anthropologist and sociologist studies on the subject and notes cultural differences in dealing with envy, with some emphasis on how it relates to politics. I honestly didn't find a single dull page in all of this.
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45 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful, thought-provoking, and eye-opening. September 4, 2002
Envy is without a doubt the most corrosive of all human emotions, yet sociological, psychological, and anthropoligical study of its phenomenology is non-existent. How unfortunate!
Enter Helmut Schoek who traces the origins of envy through cultures, philosophy, psychology and politics. After reading this book you will be able to see how politicians appeal to this basest of human emotions to engender dissatisfaction and rage.
The phenomenology of envy needs to be studied in depth because of its pervasiveness in human nature, and societies worldwide. No people, government, religon or social group is immune from its poison.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating study of human behavior and motivation August 9, 2004
I loved this book, a true tour-de-force. Although I am a fairly fast reader, it took me a while to get through this, because after reading 10-15 pages, I would have to stop and assimilate the information Schoeck was presenting. Absolutely fascinating.

Schoeck has assembled a vast array of information on the manifestations of envy in societies spanning the globe and across time. He has ferreted out information from the sociological and anthropological literature, fiction literature, cultural fables, crime data, political debates, among other sources. He uses example after real world example to show how ubiquitous envy is as a state of mind, and how various cultures deal more or less successfully with it. Societies that are successful in dealing with envy are essentially those that largely suppress its active, overt expression.

Numerous cases from the sociological and anthropological literature indicate how primitive societies, where objective differences between society members are much smaller than in more developed cultures, actually have more severe problems with the expression of envy than do cultures where such differences are larger. He shows how world-wide in primitive cultures, the 'evil eye' is universally regarded as the sorcerous expression of envious malice, and further shows the lengths to which primitive peoples will go to avoid or deflect the evil eye. Schoeck reveals from objective sources that such envy appeasement is not limited to primitive societies, but that egalitarian redistributionist policies are merely the manifestation of envy avoidance and/or appeasement in industrialized nations.

Schoeck spends extensive energies analyzing the egalitarian-utopian impulse and its various practical experiments.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Envy makes the world go round August 3, 2011
A brilliant and thoroughly researched work, Envy takes a deep, long look into the human psyche and reveals what really makes civilization tick - envy - without which, according to Helmut Schoeck, society is not possible. Negative envy destroys, but positive envy called emulation, is the prime motivating force behind the individual's desire for achievement and acclaim. Schoeck provides distinct definitions of the difference between envy and jealousy, words which are much confused in modern society. Jealousy is explained as 'the endeavor to protect what is one's own by right', while envy is 'the ill feeling one experiences at the success of another, or the joy one felt at someone else's failure'.

Envy does not merely arise out of materialism or acquisitiveness, but rather a deep-seated desire within humans to be equal to, or better than, others; to avoid the evil eye (a great inhibitor to the accumulation of wealth) or ostracism, a common practice in ancient Greece. Schoeck, through numerous case studies, reveals how primitive peoples are just as capable of envy as the modern affluent.

As the most insightful book on the subject I have ever read, it should be referred to often and studied religiously.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential sourcebook for understanding political events October 15, 2005
I read Helmut Schoeck's book many years ago and I still consider it the fundamental source for the study of politics. Envy and the deflection of envy are so fundamental to political movements that without understanding these mechanisms, comparative analysis of political systems is worthless.

Because of my proximity in NW, USA his description of the potlatch societies was particularly thought provoking. I believe their relative stasis for 9,000 years can largely be attributed the way in which they treated envy.

Successful societies are those that have developed and continue to nurture coping mechanisms to reduce the prominence this most dangerous of human traits. Unsuccessful societies allow envy to be come prominent and often celebrate it's deflection.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Equality is Envy in Disguise
Good extensive coverage of an emotion which is the spine of current political foolery. All sides of the political arguments use envy and they all are ingenious in hiding the... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Douglas Fairbanks
2.0 out of 5 stars A Diatribe Against Attempts to Ameliorate Envy
I found this book to be a polemic against socialism and the dangers of governments trying to create equal opportunity by such means as graduated tax systems and welfare for the... Read more
Published 15 months ago by CaveatEmptor
5.0 out of 5 stars " It's too bad that this book isn't taught in classrooms! "
This work has proven quite critical in affording a most useful insigh into the minds of 'the progressive narrative'( otherwise known as Fabian Socialist )much of which is found... Read more
Published 20 months ago by sunarrow
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't buy
The book is very difficult to get into. It is all over the place. I thought it was going to be more informative than it was. Save your money! Don't buy this book!
Published 23 months ago by kdaysh
5.0 out of 5 stars envy:a theory of social behavior
this book is helps us to understand and see how many of the problems in the soviet union etc are rooted in envy, though disguised by politicians otherwise.
Published on November 27, 2009 by Hortense Patterson
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating.
You just don't find this kind of book now-a-days very often. The insight, considerations and research are fascinating. Read more
Published on October 30, 2009 by Peaceful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unconvincing mix of interesting and boring ideas
This book makes a moderate number of interesting claims about envy and its economic effects, interspersed with some long boring sections. Read more
Published on November 27, 2006 by Peter McCluskey
5.0 out of 5 stars Mildly written -- and revolutionary
Just as one point: our "environmentalist" thinkers have decided that all human evil originates from the OUTSIDE. We are all born lovely and natural, but society corrupts us. Read more
Published on April 27, 2006 by Geoff Puterbaugh
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