- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Basic Books; First Printing edition (2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0465071856
- ISBN-13: 978-0465071852
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 13 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #417,643 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Saturated Self: Dilemmas Of Identity In Contemporary Life First Printing Edition
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"Enlightening...a brilliantly argued though disturbing book that offers an intriguing explanation for some of the more maddening and puzzling aspects of contemporary life."
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`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. Marriages, close-knit families and lifelong friendships have now become replaceable by transient relationships. In the absence of meaningful human interaction, we are now increasingly attracted to relationships with these material things.
The result has been that many of us are experiencing social exhaustion. Gergen believes that this is a prime factor in the development of the New Age movement, where people are increasingly attracted to eastern mystical philosophies of quietude and reflection. Nostalgia for simpler past times is a feature of this same mind-set, because the dreamy ethos of Romanticism in the 19th century has been replaced by hard-edged scientific and technological realism in the 20th. For the romanticist conception of the self `is a perspective that lays central stress on unseen, even sacred forces that dwell deep within the person, forces that give life and relationships their meaning.' Depressingly, Gergen feels that this process of social saturation is far from complete.
This is a challenging and thought-provoking book. The author says his aim is `to offer insight into current academic debates to those outside the tower.' However, the breadth and depth of this monograph make it best suited to graduate students in a wide range of disciplines - philosophy, psychology, sociology. There are even perceptive comments on Romantic to postmodern art, music and literature. For the non-academic, this level of scholarship may prove intimidating. For those who stay the course, there are copious Notes and an Index at the end of the book.
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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.