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Sibling Society Hardcover – April 11, 1996

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; First Edition edition (April 11, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0201406462
  • ISBN-13: 978-0201406467
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 7 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,226,084 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Poet and storyteller Robert Bly takes the baby boomers to task in this highly charged exposure of midlifers' values. Having become jaded by the abuses of authority, the boomers of North America have torn down the traditional hierarchy within their families and within their communities. What's left is a "cultural flatness," says Bly, where adults cling to self-absorbed adolescent values, television talk shows have more clout than elders, children are spiritually abandoned to fend for themselves, and in the place of community we have built shopping malls. As always, Bly relies on mythology, legends, and poetry to illustrate the morals of his stories. Ultimately this is a hopeful piece of work, nudging midlifers to take on the responsibilities (and therefore the rewards) of adulthood. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From Publishers Weekly

When Bly's Iron John shot onto the bestseller lists in the early '90s, it looked as if the men's movement it helped spawn might become a cultural force equal to the women's movement. This hasn't happened, Bly intimates in his new book, because the adults needed to bring the movement to fruition aren't available. The uninitiated and un-mentored have taken over our culture, he says, and with no "parents" around to referee our squabbling, we're caught in the throes of "sibling" rivalry. Adolescents can be cruel-hence, Bly avers, our current cutthroat competitiveness in businesses that feel no responsibility to the community, environment or their employees, and hence the rise of viciousness in the media and on the street. Bly rounds up many of the usual suspects: TV, latchkey (or day-care) children, excessive political correctness, violent rap lyrics and so on. True to his life's work, he incorporates fairy tale and myth to bolster his analysis, devoting, for example, a chapter to "Jack and the Beanstalk"; to Bly, "Jack represents all men and women who live in a fatherless and, increasingly, motherless society." The text rambles at times, but Bly's central metaphor of a sibling society could catch on with those concerned about a lack of maturity in our consumer culture. First serial to Utne Reader; BOMC, QPB and One-Spirit Book Club selections; audio rights sold to Random.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

It is a powerful and beautifully told theory.
Herbert L Calhoun
Unlike most of my generation, I was raised in a traditional two-parent household.
Leo E. Walsh
This is an important book that is relevant today.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

62 of 63 people found the following review helpful By Leo E. Walsh on May 11, 2001
Format: Paperback
Those familiar with "Iron John" know Bly's style, and how he uses fairy tales to illuminate the hidden recesses of modern culture. In "The Sibling Society," he pulls off an amazing feat. Using simple tales such as "Jack and the Beanstalk" and the Hindu myth of Siva/Ganesha, Bly points out many of the failings evident in modern culture. His insights are measured, wise and seem quite accurate to me. Time and time again, I found myself paging through the book, nodding "Yes! That's it." It seemed as if I were seeing the plight of Gen-Xers like myself clearly for the first time.

Unlike most of my generation, I was raised in a traditional two-parent household. My mother was strong, gentle and patient, my father an old-fashioned, firm but fair disciplinarian. Needless to say, I was shocked when I went away to college. Though I drank, the debaucheries most people went through seemed silly and shallow. Even in corporate America, I find `brown-nosing' and petty backroom politics, instead of solid analysis and ethical behavior, to be the focus of most people's careers. Not that I am always perfect, but at least I try.

I think Bly has done a wonderful job illuminating the nature of the dilemma I've been facing for years. Though some of his points are arguable, I think the synthesis is a pretty accurate Freudian/ Jungian relating of mythic elements of our psyches to the realities of modern life. His pointing out how the "super-ego" has shifted its emphasis from moral/ethical domination to a success/ popularity one seems to me quite apt. I can see it operating all around me. I was raised under the "old" system, and to this day find the "new" system quite alien.

As an answer to the critic below, perhaps you are transferring your "shadow" onto the author.
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40 of 41 people found the following review helpful By mina alcaraz on July 21, 2001
Format: Paperback
You want to know what Britney Spears, Columbine, and Gary Condit have in common? Just read this book and you'll get your answer as well some great insights into our twisted little culture at the present. Yeah, yeah, yeah, online detractors, I heard it all before-he's stolen material from such classics as "The Culture of Narcisissm" and other works. He's unfocused, pompous,etc. Call him what you will, but I think it's brilliant how he uses myths and fairy tales to lead us into our modern day predicaments that we all sense on some vague level but can't articulate them clearly. And in the end, he is right on target with his arguments. There isn't a day that goes by where I don't whisper "sibling society" under my breath-whether it's that I see a 45 year old mother of 4 with a picture of a supermodel taped to her fridge to stop her from eating or the myriad of "reality programming" shows on every major network. Bly is a cultural prophet with a very thought provoking set-up that stays with you long after you finish the book.
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Casca on June 8, 1998
Format: Paperback
Bly sees a break down in traditional values, with the consumer society and television being major culprits.He also blames the baby boomers because of their disrespect of authority.(However, baby boomers were the first generation to be consumerized;since, the trend has much intensified.)He shows that the young can't grow up because they don't have real adults to guide them, and the commercial interests are keeping them at an adolescent stage.As he did in "Iron John", Bly laments the absence of fathers in the family, and the impossible burdens placed on mothers.The strength of the book is his exposition of a disturbing trend in modern society: the "arrested development" of the young, which is denying them a fully human life.Bly's social theory lacks rigor, but overall this is a very important tract for the times.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Barbara Spring on December 18, 2002
Format: Paperback
In the Sibling Society, Robert Bly has found our culture's shadows: we have failed to provide a moral compass for the young. By refusing to become fully mature themselves parents have abandoned their children to inadequate day care and hours of television and computers rather than passing on the values of the culture on a one to one basis. The effects of turning young children over to unlimited hours of television has affected their ability to focus and apply themselves to the tasks of school.
Yet school also takes some lumps from Bly. He believes that education is not what it should be because it is in collusion with the valueless sibling society that is; it does not consider what the past has to teach us.
A seeming contradiction is Bly's discomfort with authority of any sort yet he expresses a longing for the order that mature uses of authority would bring.
Promise Keepers, a men's organization that asks for responsible maturity, has missed the mark according to the author by ignoring the good gains made by women in the past thirty years. He recognizes the need for mutuality between men and women.
At the age of 70, he reflects upon the changes brought about by neglecting to teach the collective wisdom everyone took for granted a generation or two ago. He has lived through turbulent times and given a great deal of thought to what has happened in families, the leadership of this country, the media and their effects upon the young generation. Bly's view will not be popular with those who have taken popular culture for granted. For example, he believes that western movies have affected the psyches of males in our society by overturning the bases for a civilized and moral society in favor of a macho male code.
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