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American Mania: When More is Not Enough Hardcover – January 17, 2005

3.8 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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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Review

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
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1st edition (January 17, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393059944
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393059946
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,183,892 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Nickname : Ram Location, Macon, Georgia, USA.

Real Name : Ramanathan S Manavasi

In his book "Our Culture of Pandering" , Paul Simon, a Director of the Public Policy Institute at the University of Southern Illinois clearly and pointedly discusses several issues -taxes, social security, civil liberties, crime - that invite pandering.

The brilliant and prophetic book "Why America's Children Cannot Think" authored by Peter Kline argues passionately for viable solutions to America's educational crisis. It offers solutions to our children concerning interpretation skills in the highly competitive information age.

What we see in America normally is a weird intermingling of high ideals with gross materialism, the lofty and vulgar cheek to cheek. The people who detest USA take a look at this odd conjunction and assume the materialistic America is the real America. The real America, they insist, is the resource wasting, TV-drenched unreflective part of the earth. The President's talk about freedom, the high toned language is just a cover, they say, for the quest for oil. Desire for riches, dominion and war.

Viewed in this context, the recent magnum opus of Dr. Peter S Whybrow's "American Mania-- When More Is Not Enough" is a wonderful and comprehensive analysis of the disease that afflicts us all. Drawing upon detailed case studies and alarming statistics of obesity, depression, and panic disorders, offers compassionate guidance offers compassionate guidance. Interestingly, he suggests that our immigrant heritage accounts for our compulsion to push for more. Migrants are by nature risk takers and reward seekers, and we've concentrated tens of millions of them in America.
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Format: Hardcover
Dr. Peter Whybrow's American Mania: When More Is Not Enough

Reviewed by Dr. David Gregory

As a cultural anthropologist, I spent decades studying the problems and opportunities of international labor migration. Later, I left academia and immersed myself in the world of international commerce and finance. My experience has left me hard to impress. I am impressed with Dr. Peter Whybrow's book, American Mania: When More is Not Enough. I found it insightful, challenging and ultimately empowering.

Dr. Whybrow invites us to look at where we have arrived after three incredible centuries, to contemplate the paradoxes of our unique prosperity and its current effects on our physical health, our state of mind, the quality of our social relations, and the future direction of our nation. He does so from a unique perspective derived from his expertise in medicine, neuroscience and evolutionary biology. His deep concern is that the "fabulous" turbo-paced, technologically driven society we Americans have built is outpacing our physiological abilities to adjust and may therefore be unsustainable. Presenting facts and provocative case studies, he offers a convincing argument that, "In our compulsive drive for more, we are making ourselves sick."

As a people we are suffering from obesity, the burdens of debt, and shallow social relations fractured by unbridled self-interest. As a result, we are taking an increasing amount of drugs in a desperate attempt to treat stress-related diseases, depression, and high blood pressure. "We are sleeping less, working longer, spending less time with our families in the manic rush to earn more money to buy more goods that leave us wanting more."

At least one critic has implied that Dr.
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Format: Hardcover
The thesis of Whybrow's book is one that rings true, "In our relentless pursuit of happiness, we have overshot the target and spawned a manic society with an insatiable appetite for more." He does a great job of clearly identifying the problem as he sets down an indictment of American society, suggesting America's supercharged free-market capitalism shackles us to a treadmill of overconsumption, fraying the family and leaving us anxious, alienated and overweight.

In attempting to diagnose the 'why' behind the 'what', Whybrow suggests "the dopamine reward systems of the brain are... hijacked, and 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."

I'm not convinced about this. America is too big a melting pot for such a seemingly broad-sweeping, all-inclusive answer. Furthermore, I question the science behind the assertion.

However, I believe he's spot on when he writes, "The mind is prone to addiction," Whybrow claims, "Everybody is capable of becoming addicted to something - wine, sex, food, exercise, the very pursuit of happiness. Paradoxically, freedom without restraint is enervating, not liberating. There's a difference between pleasure and happiness; happiness depends on limits."'

Here is the greatest contribution of the book. His statement is something which is unpopular, and at the same time corresponds with the human condition. "Happiness depends on limits.
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