203 of 227 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm Afraid I've Caught the Narcissism Bug?
For some time I've been wondering what the attraction of social networks such as MySpace and Facebook and dozens of imitators are all about. My children and most of their friends spend hours and hours on these "tell-all" websites. If I wish to know what my kids are up to, I can check their websites and the websites of their girl friends. My daughter ended up with some...
Published on April 21, 2009 by James R. Holland
293 of 325 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Me, me, me!
"The Narcissism Epidemic" is an often thought-provoking critique of modern American culture. We're definitely more obsessed with ourselves than decades ago, and it's certainly an uncomfortable experience to read the many examples here and recognize family members, friends, and loved ones. Yet despite the fact that both authors are academic research psychologists, there's...
Published on April 27, 2009 by Danno
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293 of 325 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Me, me, me!,
"The Narcissism Epidemic" is an often thought-provoking critique of modern American culture. We're definitely more obsessed with ourselves than decades ago, and it's certainly an uncomfortable experience to read the many examples here and recognize family members, friends, and loved ones. Yet despite the fact that both authors are academic research psychologists, there's an awful lot less psychology in this book than meets the eye. Truth be told, while there are a lot of good research studies on narcissism, both Twenge and Campbell are willing to go far beyond the data to extend their hypotheses to such areas as MySpace, online flamers, and dating websites. A wealth of social psychology and evolutionary psychology research explains these areas far better than Twenge and Campbell's thesis, yet this research is all but ignored by the authors. Many of the chapters rely on the tried-and-true anecdotal approach used in academic critiques of pop culture, often implying empirical support by associating them with unrelated research articles. I'm also annoyed at the almost total lack of chapter references; instead we are given a website to download this information from.
The book ignores much of the social structure that supports narcissism and allows it to flourish. Yes, the parental and educational influences are clearly labelled. But codependency isn't probed. Nor is the general lack of assertiveness among many people. Narcissists can't run rampant within a society unless they are allowed to. In the chapter on the cult of celebrity, for example, the role of gossip mags as reinforcement for the celebrity narcissist is mentioned. But what about the consumer of such magazines? Some of their support may be that they are allowed to participate vicariously into the lives of someone far more famous and glamorous than they are.
There's also more than a hint of generation gap angst. College students' narcissism is detailed, but media hungry professors are ignored. Academicians who use the classroom as a soapbox to speak outside their area of expertise are absent. The motives of contemporary youth volunteers is questioned, yet the motives of social protesters in the 1960s isn't. (Anyone who attended any protests knows that it's a great way to meet people and present an image of political awareness!)
Still, this book does document a pressing social problem, and does it well. It also contains a series of suggestions for reducing or preventing narcissism in your children, your family, and even yourself. This sets it apart from many other finger-wagging books. I enjoyed this book because it forced me to re-examine some of the way I look at certain people in my life. But while Twenge and Campbell do an excellent job of describing the current state of narcissism today, they don't do as good a job convincing me of their central thesis. Narcissism research is superb in demonstrating how narcissists react angrily to criticism and feedback, and how they view themselves as entitled to special treatment. It does not do a very good job of explaining online rudeness, why we obsess over celebrities, behave immaturely, refuse to effectively discipline our children, or treat our current lives as transitional. I recommend this one as an excellent read, but one that must be read with an eye toward alternate explanations.
203 of 227 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm Afraid I've Caught the Narcissism Bug?,
For some time I've been wondering what the attraction of social networks such as MySpace and Facebook and dozens of imitators are all about. My children and most of their friends spend hours and hours on these "tell-all" websites. If I wish to know what my kids are up to, I can check their websites and the websites of their girl friends. My daughter ended up with some stalker problems and wisely cancelled her Facebook listing. I don't check my son's social sites often because I know I may not like what I find posted. Most of it is harmless news, but some of it is too personal for dear old Dad and Mom to want to know. Much of what is shown on many social sites may come back to bite the subject of the material on their rear ends. Employers often check the listings about potential employees.
Some of my peers spend more time updating their social website listings than improving their business websites. I know that the number of so-call "friends" pictured on their social sites must require them to spend several hours a day corresponding. The business friends justify it as networking and self-promotion for their businesses. I have my doubts. I suspect those friendships are miles wide and a fraction of an inch deep.
This book is about the fact that the Narcissism Epidemic has hooked millions of people into becoming "Me Addicts." These youngsters are the product of our American culture that glorifies wealth, beauty, glamour and fame and who have been told by their parents and teachers that they are truly outstanding individuals despite any flaws. The "Love Yourself" educational programs they have been brainwashed with throughout their school careers have gone amuck. The students have been protected from reality and turned into spoiled, entitled, and lazy adults. They have traded reality for a world of fantasy. They feel they are entitled. They don't realize that accomplishments come from hard work. They believe there really is "free lunch" for everyone.
The book's four sections contain seventeen chapters. They describe the problem and it's symptoms and at the book's conclusion offers several possible solutions. The part of the book that I found most interesting was how "the Narcissism Epidemic" is partially responsible for the current economic crisis. "The American society (and political system) actively promotes living beyond your means. You want to appear to be richer, cooler, or more successful than you are. There are no payment for the first 12 months!" That's why the amount of plastic surgery done annually has exploded in only a few years. "The number of plastic surgeons, for example, has tripled since the mid-1970's while the number of physicians has merely doubled." Government policy encourages living beyond one's means by rewarding people for taking on too much debt through easy credit and taxing the heck out of savers. The economic system is broken and needs to be redesigned to reward the producers and savers and instead taxing consumption.
This very readable book will make its readers wonder if they too are prisoners of the Narcissism Epidemic. While not exactly a page-turner, it is hard to put the book aside for very long. It's full of interesting insights, research results and tests to help you determine your own degree of infection. It confirms many of the feelings and suspicions we've all felt about the current media obsessions with wealth, fame and celebrities.
35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love to Love Me, Baby! (An educator's review),
"Narcissism is the fast food of the soul. It tastes great in the short term, has negative, even dire, consequences in the long term, and yet continues to have widespread appeal." (p. 259)
For all intents and purposes, The Narcissism Epidemic is something of a sequel to Jean Twenge's previous book, Generation Me. Wheras that book focused on the younger generation's (and gen y's) increase in narcissistic behavior, this book focuses on the same trend as a nation- and worldwide phenomenon. From our ever-increasing obsession with fawning over the lives of the rich and glamorous (Real Housewives of Orange County, anyone?) to our rampant consumerism, this book tells the tale of a nation in a very strange state of decline. In a sense, we are loving ourselves to death.
The first few chapters start off with the hard numbers. Twenge and Campbell have administered, and chased down, several experimental studies which demonstrate a very clear trend towards a more narcissistic attitude in the population. Young people list "being famous" as an important life goal far more frequently than their predecessors, the rise of platic surgery has increased FIVEFOLD in the past ten years (which COULD be explained by the fact that it has become more affordable, but the increase is so large that this explanation is unlikely to be the MAIN one). More and more newspaper articles and tv shows focus on narcissistic themes than in years past. Infintitely more people, when given the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, yield results consistent with narcissism than in years past. In other words, the rise in narcissism is thoroughly documented here.
From here, our authors talk about everything from whether narcissists tend to suffer from low self-esteem (quite the opposite, as many self-help gurus and educators have yet to figure out), whether narcissism helps one get ahead in life (only if you are a entertainer, it seems), and whether narcissism has its root cause in the well-intentioned self-esteem mmovement of the seventies and eightgies (you betcha!).
As an educator myself, this last point was one of the most fascinating for me. While students today often do not think twice about cheating, disrespecting teacher and peers, or expecting grades without doing the work, we continue to mistakenly believe the problem to be low, rather than way too high, self-esteem. All the while, Twenge and Campell are careful to distance themselves from the view that we should NOT praise our kids or ignore their self-esteem, which is far from what they are saying. They are simply pleading for moderation. Praising a child's virtues is different from overpraising their every move. The authors use the obsesity analogy: just as recognizers of the obesity epidemic do not want us to stop eating, but only eat in moderation, recognizers of the narcissism epidemic are only suggesting that we praise in moderation (while also encouraging hard work) rather than going overboard like we have been.
There are also some timely chapters on how narcissim played a key role in the 2008/2009 recession. While everyone is quick to blame the banks, consumers, and the government, we seem squeamish about criticizing what the three groups had in common: unbounded and irrational greed! Consumers were buying houses and things they did not need so as to satisfy increasing desires to live high on the hog (without having to earn it). Banks focused on quick profits rather than prudent investments in their willingness to dupe consumers into predatory loans. The government just wanted to see everyone own a house (which somehow became a right rather than a privilege to be earned). Twenge and Campbell do a great job in showing that for each group, the culprit was greed, narcissism, and a belief that everyone could have everything without having to (as in years past) exercise hard work and prudence.
But how to stop these trends? Unlike the previous book, Generation Me, the Narcissism Epidemic focuses many of its pages to offering suggestions on how we get out of this dizzying mire of narcissism. Most chapters conclude with a section called "Treatment for the Epidemic" and the last sixth of the book is made up of chapters offering "Prognosis and Treatment." Some suggestions are - or should be! - quite commonsensical: teach your children prudence, work-ethic, and that it is not always about them, regulate the credit industry, teach prudence and humility in school, participate, and encourage others to participate, in social clubs that nurture a sense of community. Some are interesting but quite fantastic: tone down the fevered pitch of product advertising, make "less is more" a new societal catchprase, tax luxury items more heavily (as a libertarian, I am not a great fan of government regulation.)
[One suggestion that Twenge and Campbell infuriatingly left off the list is to let irresponsible spenders feel the full consequences of their action. As it stands now, the government is doing the opposite by penalizing those not in debt by forcing them to "bail out" those who are. Message: narcissists are more important and deserving than the average Joe.]
Whereas I gave Twenge's earlier book a three star review, I am giving this book five stars. Unlike the previous book, this book was more cohesive, well-documented, and contained focus not only on the problem but on possible ways out. As an educator, I urge every parent and educator to read this book so that we can see exactly what the misguided self-esteem movement has led to. As a citizen I urge everyone to read this book to get a sense for the import of narcissistic values and how they threaten to make a great country significantly worse.
90 of 104 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A parent's view,
As a parent, I found this book eye opening. Aren't I the one who takes my kids to soccer and baseball where they get a trophy for simply attending? My daughter's teachers make the parents invite the entire class to a birthday party so no one gets their feelings hurt. This makes me sick! I am so happy that this is not good for them. Our children must grow up in a world where they are not always going to be the best and they are not going to get everything they want. I've have always felt that my kids need to "earn" self esteem by accomplishing something- not for just showing up. This book shows me that it is truly an epidemic out there. I better watch out!!
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An inflated view of self? What happens when the Millennial Generation is in charge?,
Psychologists Jean Twenge and Keith Campbell investigate narcissism in their book,The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement. Narcissists believe they are better than others in social status, looks, intelligence, creativity, and entitlement.
Twenge and Campbell argue that we either are producing, or have produced, a new generation of narcissists. These narcissists believe the world revolves around them, that their needs are more important than the needs of others. The authors clearly separate "self-esteem" from "narcissism." "Narcissists think they are smarter, better looking, and more important than others, but not necessarily more moral, more caring, or more compassionate. Narcissists don't brag about how they are the nicest, most thoughtful people in the world, but they do like to point out that they're winners or that they're hot... People merely high in self-esteem also have positive views of themselves, but they also see themselves as loving and moral" (p. 24).
An assessment tool, the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, indicates that, on college campuses, "narcissism has risen as much as obesity" (p. 31). And why not? YouTube, Facebook, and MySpace allows everyone to post photos and news items directly focusing on themselves, the 15 minutes of fame on order. Today's children are bombarded with messages that they are not only special, they are princes and princesses, extra special, and unique. It is a world where, as lampooned by Garrison Keillor, "Welcome to Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average." Celebrities are featured in the news because of their narcissistic behaviors. Movies feature highly narcissistic characters. I was watching football yesterday, and two commercials featured young men who either chose a beer over a girlfriend, or spouted statements of affection while a young woman was draped over him learns that he was talking about his beer, not her (according to Twenge and Campbell, narcissists have real difficulty in stable relationships; after all, THEY are the important one here! Bring on the trophy wives!).
Believing that the world and all its inhabitants exist for their pleasure, you can guess how narcissists look at material possessions, money, and their own convenience. Easy credit terms, according to Twenge and Campbell, were tailor-made for narcissists. Big houses that they can't afford? "But I deserve it!" Thirty thousand dollar weddings? "But I deserve it!" A make-up final exam that was missed because of a ski trip? "But I deserve it!"
"We are not saying that narcissism is entirely responsible for the current financial crisis; poorly designed financial models and lack of oversight were culprits as well. However, the narcissism epidemic pushed people to spend beyond their means on depreciating assets and created a culture that accepted and even encouraged turning a fast buck selling risky, speculative financial products. Society narcissism is the missing ingredient in understanding the financial meltdown" (p. 134).
And the focus on self! There is a reason that Botox, various augmentation surgeries, teeth whitening, and more "hotness" improving strategies are a booming business. "Beauty has always been a virtue, but lately its pursuit has reached new levels. There is a new standard of vanity, where it's not enough to be beautiful; you have to be hot" (p. 142).
Twenge and Campbell state "Narcissism is the fast food of the soul. It tastes great in the short-term, has negative, even dire, consequences in the long run, and yet continues to have widespread appeal" (p. 259). Throughout this book, Twenge and Campbell note the signs of narcissistic tendencies, and make suggestions for "treating the epidemic." They conclude with a summary of the five key causes of the rise in narcissism:
1. a focus on self-admiration
2. child-centered parenting
3. celebrity glorification and media encouragement
4. attention-seeking on the Internet
5. easy credit
The treatments proposed by Twenge and Campbell can be summarized in two words: better parenting (this is my summation, not necessarily theirs). But how do you get this message out to, say, 100 million parents or parents-to-be? We can't even get soft drinks out of schools, celebrities to not glorify smoking, or reduce the shop-till-you-drop mentality of Black Friday.
It is important to understand the problem. Academics are good at that. They are less competent at coming up with realistic and workable solutions. However, I am very appreciative of Twenge and Campbell opening my eyes to the narcissism epidemic. Now how do we get school and college administrators and educators, policy-makers, and parents to even care about this issue?
And what happens when the Millennial Generation is in charge?
150 of 191 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Epidemic of narcissistic books,
Jean Twenge's sequel is stuffed with clichéd, nostalgic myths and scores of sweeping claims for which she provides no references or documentation, so it's impossible to assess their accuracy. She pronounces most people's opinions "clueless" and "stupid," so, let's look at a few of hers. Twenge buys the notion that Sixties kids dropped acid to "help" others, while kids today who actually volunteer to help others are selfish narcissists. She berates a few Woodstock 1999 concertgoers for vandalism and theft but ignores the tens of thousands of Woodstock 1969 folk who left behind mountainous tons of litter (isn't "someone will clean up after me" the ultimate narcissism?). True, as she charges, today's SUV owners' personal choices create dangers for other drivers, but nothing like the drunken driving epidemics of the Fifties, Sixties, and 1970s. Twenge claims school shootings were "virtually unheard of before 1996," which is ridiculous (one of the worst occurred in her own city, San Diego, in 1979, and Twenge overlooks more numerous mass shootings by older Americans). And it gets worse.
Twenge's books represent a triumph of unreality, in which paper-and-pencil surveys and dubious psychological theories obscure real-world trends. You can find such books in any generation. Charles Derber's "Wilding of America" used identical tactics to claim consumerist 1980s Americans were lost to self-worshipping, anti-community individualism, as did Vance Packard in the `60s, Frederic Wertham in the `50s, the Payne Commission in the 1930s, on and on. Nothing new here, other than the label for the "disease."
Twenge and co-author spend great effort comparing a few random, non-representative, inconsistent psychological and attitude surveys they selected of young Americans today with those of the past. The authors ignore better surveys that show the opposite. They then claim that questionnaires showing more narcissism and related attitudes must be producing terrible real-life consequences such as crime, aggression, exploitative sex, meanness, civic detachment, school dropout, and a host of other "destructive behaviors."
But here's the interesting problem: Twenge nowhere shows the terrible things she predicts actually are happening. Instead, she parades some selected news stories, quips, anecdotes, and internet raunch, as if evidence is the plural of anecdote. Of course, you can fill file folders with negative press clippings and quotes for any era and group you want to trash, from Thirties or Fifties or Sixties youth to Jews or immigrants or psychologists. For example, the Twenges of the 1950s similarly selected news clippings, films, and books depicting juvenile killing sprees (Starkweather), junior high dope and sex orgies, Little Rock's racist riots, Klan lynchings, widespread barbiturate abuse, family violence, drunken driving, and troubled Hollywood stars to prove they lived in a debauched time.
When you study the horrors Twenge's books predict from today's "narcissism epidemic," you see why she avoids scholarly analysis. For example:
--FBI Uniform Crime Reports, National Crime Victimization Survey, and similarly solid measures show crime and violence, including murder and rape, particularly by young people, stand at ALL-TIME LOWS.
--National Center for Health Statistics tabulations show suicide and self-destructive deaths among young people are at ALL-TIME LOWS.
--Digest of Education Statistics reports show school dropout is at an ALL-TIME LOW. Meanwhile, student diversity, the proportions of students taking harder math and science courses, achievement on constant criterion-referenced tests, enrolling in and graduating from college, and working at jobs to pay for education are at ALL-TIME HIGHS.
--Before we swallow Twenge's (and others) absurd myth that past generations were chaste models of true love, romance, and marriage, remember: it was today's parents and grandparents who doubled the divorce rate, tripled the proportion of unwed births, and more than tripled the sexually transmitted disease rate from 1950 to 1975.
--The latest cosmetic surgery tabulations flatly contradict Twenge's claim that "younger people seem to be catching the plastic surgery bug." In fact, fewer than 2% of cosmetic medical procedures involve persons under age 19; 77% involve persons 35 and older, and the average makeover patient is older today, not younger.
--The best, long term surveys such as Monitoring the Future and The American Freshman generally show that teens today are happier, more connected to others, less lonely, less depressed, less likely to use prescribed or illegal drugs, less likely to perpetrate or suffer violence, more optimistic about the future, express greater desire to contribute to society, anticipate long-term relationships, are more tolerant of diversity, and are slightly less likely to express high self-esteem than youth 30 years ago--all countering claims of narcissistic doom.
--In fact, Monitoring the Future shows the percentage of high school seniors who say they are satisfied with themselves, feel they are persons of worth, and feel they can do things as well as most people (all measures of self esteem) are somewhat LOWER today than in the 1970s. Twenge's misuse of surveys has been criticized in journal studies, which may be why she now paradoxically admits, "total self esteem has not increased among high school seniors" (p. 13)... before returning to efforts to imply the opposite.
Given these positive real-world trends, maybe we need more narcissism! Scholars confront contradictions; they don't evade them. Yet, Twenge ignores serious general findings and instead pulls out selective trends, such as: youth today want to make more money instead of indulging loftier spiritual concerns. Perhaps if Twenge suffered undergraduates' average $20,000 student loan debts imposed by the six-fold increase in real-dollar education costs over the last 30 years at the same time real incomes among 18-24 year-olds stagnated, she'd see practical rather than narcissistic reasons why young people need more money.
Of course Twenge can find many grownups eager to brand young people and modern society worse. Adults always say that; pronouncing ourselves superior to "kids today" is adults' own self-esteem entitlement. (Nothing is funnier than hearing professors complain that "today's" students are narcissistic... aside from being pot-kettle, that's about as new as Socrates.) Again and again, Twenge depicts the past as a golden age of "civility" and "social control" (if she thinks today's commentators are mean, she should have heard Westbrook Pegler or Father Coughlin). For every objectionable internet site Twenge can ferret (out of hundreds of millions available), one can find similarly hateful books, bigoted commentaries, and malicious gossip in past eras designed to flatter and elevate oneself at the expense of demeaning others--which, come to think of it, is exactly what Twenge's books do. Correct me if I'm wrong, but Twenge's own multiple websites feature the same "self promotion," "quest for attention," and "self praise" (a whole page of it, in fact) she castigates in the young.
Twenge's books--founded in a meaningless narcissism concept Twenge strives to validate by distorting real-world trends and behaviors to conform to it--is one more in the epidemic of bad scholarship on young people. I apologize for the length of this review, but it would take another book to point out all the factual mistakes and inconsistencies in book like these.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Frightening But True,
This review is from: The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement (Paperback)
The Narcissism Epidemic is an attention grabbing book that harshly critiques the individualistic values of contemporary American culture. Twenge and Campbell provide compelling evidence of the increasing prevalence of narcissism and the negative consequences it has on individuals and society. They expand upon the assertion (found in The Culture of Narcissism, by Christopher Lasch) that our educational system is deteriorating, by citing empirical studies indicating that more students get A's now than in the past, despite the visible decrease in performance. They also argue that America's increasingly narcissistic values have contributed largely toward our current economic crisis, and discuss ways of mitigating the individual and societal ramifications of narcissism.
I do question their refutation of the psychodynamic position, that narcissistic people inherently have low self-esteem. According to the authors, this belief has contributed toward our society's acceptance of narcissistic behavior and parents' tendency to reward their children regardless of their performance, in an effort to foster high self-esteem. Twenge and Campbell cite research illustrating that contrary to popular belief, high self-esteem does not facilitate high achievement. I do not think the authors succeed in constructing a logical argument against the psychodynamic position, because they do not clearly define "self-esteem," and take for granted the difference between their meaning and the psychodynamic meaning of the word. Consequently, I am led to question whether they are indeed arguing semantics.
To comment on their disagreement with New Age individualism, I believe that while valuable on the surface, promoting concepts from motivational psychology to help people reach their full potential, the way many New Age author's do, is idealistic and should be offset by articulating how social equality is in no way incongruent with this approach. In the absence of such a dialogue, I fear the widespread consequences that could arise as a result of extremists and/or naive readers buying into unintentional (I hope) propaganda. So while I do not entirely agree with the New Age philosophy as usually depicted, I find the authors' critique to be a bit severe and misleading.
Overall, I think The Narcissism Epidemic is a great book that could lead to a worthwhile discourse on where society is headed and what we, as individuals, can do about it.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome Critique of American Society,
What's wrong with American society today? The Narcissism Epidemic attempts to tackle this question by documenting the nature, scope, sources, and history of the infectious spread of narcissism throughout America. This book is written by a couple of research scientists for a general audience. It offers plenty of shocking examples of egotism run amok in the United States. These copious and entertaining examples single-handedly make the book worth your time if you are not the "intellectual type," but this book goes far deeper for the critical reader. The authors provide a unified account of many ostensibly independent cultural trends in terms of their origin in narcissism. They also propose mechanisms for the spread of narcissism, focusing on among other things the relatively recent changes in the ways that parents raise their children. Also, as you might expect of academic psychologists, the authors take pains to buttress their assertions with credible scientific evidence. Along the way, they dispel myths about narcissists, such as the commonplace that narcissists don't love themselves "deep down inside." Thus, even if you feel you knew it all along that narcissism has regrettably come to define our culture this book will provide you with a much more sophisticated understanding of the true character of the problem. This book is entertaining, important, extremely informative, and always easy to read.
I recommend this book without reservation.
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book on Narcissim,
I just read Dr. Pinksy's book called THE MIRROR EFFECT and then read this. If you're a parent, an employer or a counselor, you truly need to read this book! We live in very entitling times, where folks lack true self-esteem and this book, based on Twenge's studies, truly puts it in persective. As an Executive Coach, I deal with narcissim in leaders all the time--now it's nice to have a book to hand someone so they might get at the root of their problems! Filled with great information and ideas you can use to undo a lot of bad parenting, this is an excellent work!
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars not as deep as you'd like.,
I've been teaching in college for twelve years now, and my colleagues and I have in the last three or four years found ourselves *constantly* baffled by our students. It's not that typical thing that every generation feels that the next generation is a slide down into moral turpitude and decay, it dealt with how to reach them--teaching techniques and activities we've done for years no longer work. Students fail exams, don't hand in papers, and expect to get an A in the class. Students get irate when even politely corrected about their behavior ("Steve, could you please put your cell phone away? It's class time now and your group needs your help.") This book I'd hoped would offer answers and some comfort.
I think they did a quite good job *not* scapegoating young folks, and proving that narcissism is really a cultural problem that every generation of Americans is infected with, to a greater or lesser degree. That's an important corrective to many people's perceptions, and I have to admit it was somewhat comforting that it's not just me: I'm not the only educator confounded about how to reach these students.
They end many of the later chapters with suggestions, many of which are either common sense (parents, please say no to your children every now and again) or are kind of silly (we should utilize narcissism to get people to volunteer?) That latter kind of advice, based on the model of the popularity of repackaged religion in megachurches, seems a bit cynical and manipulative, and also rather ironic, since they decry the cheap and shallow narcissistic religion of those very megachurches. So if ego-driven religion is bad...ego-driven volunteerism is...good? How's that now?
The first half of this book, and a few of the later chapters, such as the one on the antisocial behavior rife on the internet, are fresh and fascinating, but sometimes the authors try to push an agenda a bit beyond the scope of the book. First, it's a huge stretch for me to connect a book on narcissism to environmental issues. It seems beyond the topic of the book. Second, it is the *only* public service or 'outside your self' issue they ever seem to notice--they don't seem capable of imagining volunteering to feed homeless people or candystripe or anything like that. Third, if you think the way to volunteering is to repackage so that the volunteer gets his or her ego needs met (feeding the narcissism) then why don't these 'experts' suggest ways we could repackage some volunteer efforts *beyond* celebrities driving Priuses?! And while it's nice to finally learn what negative amortization is, and I'm willing to believe narcissism may have had a contributory cause to the current economic...erm...situation, the book seems to insist it's *all* about narcissism. Oh, and you should be pro 'fair tax'. Yet in that same chapter as they say this stuff, they disingenously claim their apolitical. Riiiiiiiiight.
It's an interesting book, though most of the research is meta-analysis of other studies, of which we cannot judge the quality. The solutions seem thin and hard to implement and ideologically all seem to work to the idea of feeding the epidemic. The book raises more questions and issues than it answers, but still, it brings the topic to the table. Even if you hate this book and disagree with everything it says, you are engaging in the issue in a way that cannot help but be useful in the long run.
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The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement by W. Keith Campbell