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The Saturated Self: Dilemmas Of Identity In Contemporary Life [Paperback]

Kenneth Gergen
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

2000 0465071856 978-0465071852 Reprint
Today’s ever-expanding communications technologies force us to relate to more people and institutions than ever before, challenging the way we view ourselves and our relationships. This powerful and provocative book draws from a wide range of disciplines—from anthropology to psychoanalysis, from film and fiction to literary theory—to explore these profound changes in our understanding of self-identity and their implications for cultural and intellectual life.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"Social saturation" is Gergen's term for ordinary people living with constant change, bombarded by electronic messages, open to a vast range of personal relationships. Under this sensory assault, the self as a known entity breaks down and the post-modern woman or man, cast adrift in a world of limitless possibilities, advances from the "pastiche personality" to the energy vortex of the "relational self" ("the relationship replaces the individual as the center of human action"). This dizzying scenario is anchored by a discussion of "self-reflective" movies and TV shows (Woody Allen, David Letterman ) , coalescing artistic genres, anthropological comparisons, deconstructivism, with examples drawn from popular culture. Swarthmore psychology professor Gergen touches raw nerves, scrutinizing unmoored selves naked to experience in this highly stimulating, mind-expanding original work which dusts away the cliches surrounding that tiresome phrase, "the post-modern condition."
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Kenneth J. Gergen, Ph.D., is professor of psychology at Swarthmore College. He is the author of, among other works, Toward Transformation in Social Knowledge (1982) and, with co-editor John Shotter, Texts of Identity (1989).

Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; Reprint edition (2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465071856
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465071852
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #320,985 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Accessible introduction to post-modernism June 22, 2005
While many books on post-modernism obfuscate themselves in philosophical mumbo jumbo and self-referential exercises, this is a very straightforward introduction to the post-modern condition. It is also a great introduction to social construction, and the idea meaning (including the meaning of our selves) is a socially created truth rather than an absolute. Unlike a lot of books by academics, Gergen has crafeted a very readable book, that I not only learned from but enjoyed immensly.
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bewildered, Breathless and Not Grounded August 12, 2001
I found this book very interesting to read. I did not find it disturbing or brilliant. Anyone who uses the internet, watches television and videos and has been jet lagged from global travel will find this an accurate account of contemporary post-modern man's global lifestyle It has the same fun reading style and spirit as T.Friedman's "The Lexus and The Olive Tree" but with a psychosocial take rather than an economic social view. This work is not grounded in biological science and the generalizations he does make from quantum science are skewed though standard post-modern mantra as far as I know. Scientists may not relate to nature or reality directly as he argues but they do relate to mathematical inferences about nature that allow them to predict with a high degree accuracy how nature works. Otherise I wouldnt' be writing this on the computer. But then Gergen himself says that the book may be just fiction or invention not a building of ideas on top of ideas. Readers interested in the topic of self-consciousness could balance Gergen's argument with A. Damasio's "The Feeling of What Happens" and G. Edelman's "Bright Air and Brilliant Fire".Both of these works attempt to ground consciousness in the body.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shocking journey through the modern forces shaping "self" February 20, 1999
By A Customer
This is an excellent book for anyone interested in the forces shaping the concept of "self" in our post-modern society (or for anyone who thinks that he or she is above being shaped!) It is easy to read, very enlightening, and very well documented. I highly recommend it!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible October 5, 2009
This book is, simply put, an incredible accomplishment which deserves more 5-star reviews. The book is relevant to anyone's life, as it is addressing widespread social phenomena brought on by the internet, television, air travel, and other technologies that are basically taking the obstacles of space and time and reducing them to mere hurdles.

To me, the book treads between sociology and philosophy, as the author creates new terms to explain his ideas. It can be a bit disturbing reading about our society on the path to a "multiphrenic" consciousness, while later on it is pleasant to be reminded of some of the benefits of contemporary life. Gergen often dips back into the how things were in the "face to face" community of the romantic era, or during the times of machine obsessed modernity, for comparisons. As a result, this book teaches you not just about the current state of society, but about where it's been, where it is, and most importantly where it may be headed.

Before I read this book, I only knew "postmodern" as a term to describe anything contemporary. Now I know what it actually is and what causes it. It gives you plenty of things to wonder about and discuss with friends who are also interested. A college student in any related field of study will find this book a handy source for a paper on just about any topic. The first edition was written almost 20 years ago, and it's still very relevant, and will be for a long time.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What becomes of the overloaded mind? July 5, 2012
The Saturated Self by Kenneth J. Gergen, Basic Books (Perseus); 1991; 2nd edn. 2000; 320 ff.

`The thesis of this book is that the process of social saturation is producing a profound change in our ways of understanding the self.' It is written by a psychologist who is Senior Research Professor at Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania.

Gergen's idea is that we are now being subjected to excessive social stimulation, both at work and in our `relaxation' hours by the demands of our work itself and work colleagues, who are continually making greater demands upon us for their satisfaction and professional advance; by our partners and children, who also want to lead full and active lives; and even in the time we set aside for relaxation because commercial enterprise has endeavoured, in its quest for profits, to tempt us with ever more exciting opportunities for enjoyment.

Our self-image is continually under review as new opportunities for work, play and belief present themselves. We are becoming overwhelmed even by the technologies provided for our benefit - telephones, computers, television, CDs, DVDs . . . Even some relatively recent inventions, such as video and tape recorders, are already obsolete. Instead of real relationships with actual people we have vicarious relationships with characters on our TV screens, or virtual relationships on-line with `friends' on social networking sites.

We now have 24-hour radio and television channels and 24-hour shopping. Sunday used to be a day of rest in Christian countries but now is little different from any other day of the week. When the whole of society around you is immersed in such activity, it becomes more difficult to remove yourself from it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Losing authentic connections as we become more connected
This is an essential book for our high-tech, modern age. While it was written before much of the technology we have now, "The Saturated Self" highlights both the advantages... Read more
Published 8 months ago by abaugher
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting
This book gives a thorough explanation of the differences between romanticism, modernism, and post-modernism by citing examples from a variety of domains (e.g. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Jennifer May, Ph.D.
2.0 out of 5 stars A one-sided perspective
Kenneth Gergen's approach to postmodern theory is one-sided and disorganized. Through a series of unrelated examples of daily life (and occasional references to the development of... Read more
Published on May 12, 2010 by richdiet
5.0 out of 5 stars Multiphrenics Unite!
This is a very exciting and important book. Read it! "Social saturation" is a concept that needs to be looked at. "And it's okayyy."
Published on February 21, 2003 by Noel Pratt
5.0 out of 5 stars un libro fantastico para entender nuestro tiempo
Reviewer: LUIS MENDEZ ( from DOMINICAN REPUBLIC este libro es fantastico, nos descubre, nos indaga, nos hace curiosos y participes de las cosas de... Read more
Published on July 9, 2000 by Luis Méndez
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brilliant Portrait of Postmodern Culture
Ken Gergen does an amazing job of painting the picture of fragmented contemporary in this well-written and compelling book. Read more
Published on November 23, 1999 by T. Chan
5.0 out of 5 stars un libro fantastico para entender nuestro tiempo
este libro es fantastico, nos descubre, nos indaga, nois hace curioso y participe de las cosas de nuestro yo, que se encuentra atiborrado de cosa, de pensamientos, de acciones, de... Read more
Published on November 20, 1999
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