- Paperback: 160 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 2 edition (June 15, 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0195135490
- ISBN-13: 978-0195135497
- Product Dimensions: 8 x 0.3 x 5.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 11 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #480,887 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
The Pursuit of Attention: Power and Ego in Everyday Life 2nd Edition
Use the Amazon App to scan ISBNs and compare prices.
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
"A refreshingly balanced, strongly grounded exploration of the routines Americans exploit in competing for attention...."--American Journal of Sociology (on the previous edition)
About the Author
Charles Derber, author of Corporation Nation and The Wilding of America, is Professor of Sociology at Boston College.
Browse award-winning titles. See more
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Charles Derber has become one of my heroes and I cannot wait to read the rest of his books. I highly recommend this one to anyone interested in our modern culture of individualism and the impact that has on interpersonal communication and social dynamics.
I found myself thinking about the ideas in the book long after I finished reading it.
It was well written, and explained quite well. I just wish the author had not tried so hard to make the book longer than it needed to be, and condensed a lot of the information. Overall it was a good book, just quite dull the further I got into it.
Part 2 however is less successful as the author betrays what amounts to a persecution fantasy in terms of structural power systems. What he misses is the phenomenon of negative attention (Adler) or negative strokes to the ego (Berne).
In other words, everyone needs recognition, but negative recognition is better than no recognition. So the "attention economy" must be expanded to include the ego-payoff of bad behavior. This de-legitimizes the victim/persecutor narrative so dominant today and offers a strong rebuttal to his ethical inquiries into the sorting of attention.
For society to thrive we must give positive attention to those who are most constructive and negative attention to people who are useless or destructive. This basic ethical position has been perverted by the progressive delusion of the victim - one who is not responsible for ones actions. It is true that unearned attention like unearned wealth is a problem because it perverts peoples motivations. However, the authors progressive blind spot keeps him from seeing that withholding negative attention from failed behavior, assigning negative attention to constructive people, and giving free positive attention to otherwise useless members of society is a perversion of ethics by setting bad examples for people.
Performing an archaeology of casual social interactions, this tiny book argues that most of us suffer from extreme attention deprivation. This burning psychological need manifests itself everywhere, in presidential halls, board rooms, dining rooms, and bars. The economy itself even seems to have adjusted to an attention-based reward system. Those with social standing, wealth, or hype automatically receive cascading swaths of attention. Celebrities can cause excitement by merely using the bathroom. But what about the rest of us? In an increasingly winner-take-all society that seems to eat at the foundations of traditional community support structures, many of us feel abandoned. We then seek attention, seen as a basic human need, wherever we can get it. Part I of "The Pursuit of Attention" analyzes ways people pursue this scarce resource (throughout, "attention" gets equated with money and nutrition). In a sampling of random conversations, the tendency of people to turn attention to themselves was overwhelming. The puppy conversation above exemplifies this behavior: someone brings up a topic and someone else, consciously or subconsciously, tries to insert a little bit of themselves into the fray. The focus then shifts to them along with a slice of attention. This may seem prosaic, but nearly everyone does it. Readers will suddenly catch themselves and others making "shift-responses" in conversation. Its pervasiveness will remain shocking and maybe life-altering.
The book also theorizes on how this situation arose historically. Admitting that humans have always pursued attention, the author sees a dissolution of community support since the rise of capitalist market systems, which emphasize an individualistic ethos. When insecurities in the home and work arise, people tend to become insular survivalists agonizing about their own problems and shirking the needs of others. The framework of the socio-economic system then trickles down into the psychological makeup of its participants. So, the book argues, here we are in a vastly inegalitarian society where some people obtain waves of attention while the majority of us feel ignored and insignificant. Those with resources and influence can even purchase attention via psychotherapy, personal attendants, or workplace settings. Those with few or no resources scour for significance in daily interactions. Thus the "conversational narcissism" discussed above. Though the author sees such behavior as a dangerous systemic breakdown of our culture, he also offers avenues of hope. Basically, things don't have to keep developing towards self-absorption. Realization is the first step.
This fascinating book originated in a 1979 paper exploring personal conversations, distribution of attention by class and wealth, and modern day abandonment. In 2000, a new preface and conclusion were added, written in a more vibrant and popular style than the original academic paper. All of this is sandwiched together in this second edition. And though some of the pop culture references have dated, the prescient themes will resonate with anyone living in our ever increasing individualistic society.