I was amazed by this book. I was reading it when we left for a two-day driving trip. Even though I am unable to read in a moving car, I kept it near at hand to read whenever we stopped at a rest area or gas station. It was so compelling that when I finished it, I immediately tossed it back near the top of my to-read pile. The second time through, I found that it had just as much to offer (if not more) as it had the first time.
Every once in awhile, I run across a book that helps me reorganize the way I think about the world. This is such a book. Through the use of examples and detailed examination of various aspects of modern life, Kegan considers what kinds of demands the world puts on us for thinking and relating. He makes a very solid case that cognitive development does not end after one passes through the developmental stages of childhood and adolescence (magical, concrete and abstract).
By carefully considering what it is exactly that we ask adolescents to do in making the transition from concrete to abstract cognition, Kegan sets the groundwork for a careful explantion of what the next order of thought is, what it looks like, and how the modern world demands that we master it. he looks in detail at just what we ask from adults in the areas of parenting, partnering, work, dealing with differnce, healing and learning. In each case, he shows that the modern world is set up so that people thrive best if they can use what he calls a fourth-order way of relating to the world, other people, and oneself.
This book helped me understand observations that had puzzled me, and suggests ways in which adult education theories (which generally drive me crazy) need to be expanded to explain what really happens when adults come together to learn.
One very interesting thing about this book is that Kegan is able to report on research studies that support his theory. Probably the most important thing this book does is to provide a framework for considering people in the context of how they individually construct the world and their relationship to it, which allows me to judge whether a person is authentic, courageuos or generous on his own terms, not on mine.