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Assholes: A Theory Hardcover – October 30, 2012
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Hot on the heels of Geoffrey Nunberg’s Ascent of the A-Word (2012) comes another discussion of assholes and what to do about them. Actually, that’s a bit too glib: James, a philosophy professor, takes a slightly different approach than Nunberg. Where Nunberg focused on the history of assholism (with side trips into such subjects as the difficulties in writing about assholes without censorship), James proposes a theory of assholes (a person is an asshole when his sense of entitlement makes him immune to complaints from other people) that explains not only why assholes are a vital part of human society, but also how to recognize them and coexist with them. The author addresses some fundamental questions—such as whether assholes are born or made, a sort of nature-versus-nurture debate for the asshole crowd—and rigorously avoids what must have been a strong temptation to go for the cheap laugh (although it must be pointed out that this is definitely a lighter book than Nunberg’s more academic study). --David Pitt
Praise for Assholes: A Theory:
A New York Times bestseller!
"James neatly does what philosophers must do: he defines his terms, organizes and codifies, declares his own loyalties; he locates himself on the spectrum of assholery and suggest origins both psychological and sociological. The result is a delightful combination of the demotic and the technical."
—Jane Smiley, Harper's Magazine
"James’ research is both thorough and imaginative; his impressive source list ranges from obscure philosophy books to popular websites to Rudyard Kipling to Kanye West, hip-hop’s greatest asshole. The author’s enthusiasm for the subject makes it possible to get through the book quickly.... [T]here are moments of great insight and outright hilarity."
"James's volume is equal parts philosophical meditation and historical survey, but its true value lies in his attempt to precisely define the term."
—Joe Keohane, New York Magazine
“Aaron James provides us with a delightful philosophical romp through the world of assholes. I was especially tickled by his analysis of different types: smug assholes, royal assholes, the presidential asshole, corporate assholes, the reckless assholes, to name a few.”
—Robert I. Sutton, Stanford professor and author of the New York Times bestsellers The No Asshole Rule and Good Boss, Bad Boss
“Aaron James explores a very rude term that many now find unavoidable in the description of an alarming human type. His witty and accessible study of the personal and social problems the asshole creates draws on his lucid and brilliant accounts of the best in contemporary moral and political philosophy. James’s analysis of asshole capitalism is a tour de force of philosophically astute political analysis and criticism. This is a book that should appeal equally to the general reader and the philosophical specialist.”
—Marshall Cohen, founding editor of Philosophy and Public Affairs and university professor emeritus, University of Southern California