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The Selfish Society: How We All Forgot to Love One Another and Made Money Instead Paperback – 1 Apr 2010

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd; ? First Edition edition (1 April 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847375715
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847375711
  • Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 15.2 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 131,819 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sue Gerhardt was born in Durban, South Africa in 1953 but grew up in England.

She was educated at Newnham College, Cambridge where she first got interested in politics, campaigning successfully with other students for women to be given places in the previously single sex men's colleges. After achieving a degree in English Literature, she went on to acquire an M.A. degree and qualified as a documentary director at the National Film and Television School.

Sue's career has included working in a community law centre in Tottenham, London and being a documentary film director. Since 1997, she has been a practising psychoanalytic psychotherapist. Alongside her work with individuals, she co-founded a charity in 1998, the Oxford Parent Infant Project(OXPIP), to provide psychotherapeutic help for parents to relate to their babies. The charity is well established and continues to help numerous families in Oxfordshire.

Sue has two grown up children and lives in Oxford.

Product Description


`Gerhardt not only pinpoints what is wrong, but also suggests ways to put it right . . . I think I believe her'
--Independent on Sunday

'Inspiring . . . Gerhardt has world-saving proposals up her sleeve . . . [This] needs to be read right now by everyone who is pregnant' --Observer

'Gerhardt intersperses her extensive narrative research with anecdotes drawn from her experiences as a practising psychotherapist' -- Financial Times

`Sue Gerhardt could not have chosen a timelier moment for her new book . . . Her key message is as simple as it is profound' --Sunday Express

`At the core of Gerhardt's book is an absorbing survey of competing parenting theories' --Guardian

About the Author

SUE GERHARDT is a practising psychoanalytic psychotherapist. She wrote the bestselling Why Love Matters, an accessible account of the neuroscience of early development.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

55 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Damaskcat HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 2 May 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is an analysis of how society has developed in the way it has done. The author argues - convincingly in my opinion - that if children are not brought up to understand the feelings and viewpoints of other people they will turn into adults who are only concerned for themselves. It is because generations of children have been brought up not to consider others and to always put themselves first that we have a society which is not interested in looking after the weakest and wants only individual satisfaction. I remember my own upbringing in the 1950s and 1960s where the worst sin I could commit was to be selfish and as a result I am prone to put others' needs before my own to my detriment at times.

Counter-intuitively, the author suggests that by not providing for all a growing infant's needs, and by not spending time interacting with their children parents are producing monsters. By having all its needs met a child learns to accept other people's feelings and needs. If a child is emotionally starved of attention in its formative years it will grow into a very needy adult who has no trust in its own needs being met.

I found the first few chapters a little heavy going - partly because I am not that interested in children. But the last half of the book is excellent. The author analyses politicians both in the UK and the US and shows how their known upbringing has influenced their political styles and policies. She shows that both in America under George W Bush and in Britain under Tony Blair, Government changed to the leader making decisions aided by his particular cronies. She quotes figures for the UK of how rarely the Cabinet meets now compared with previous Governments.
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81 of 83 people found the following review helpful By Tom Thorpe on 10 April 2010
Format: Paperback
I looked at the news today. Why do our politicians behave like overexcited schoolchildren during debates or baby-kissing automatons when on the election stump? How can bankers become so divorced from the rest of us that they still claim huge bonuses after the taxpayer has bailed them out? Despite the ever increasing funds poured into social welfare, why do we still talk about "Broken Britain" and lament the seemingly intractable social problems reported every day? Why do some disputes like the Palestine/Israel problem stubbornly resist international diplomatic efforts? It's clear that politicians of every hue don't have the answer; however, in my opinion, this book does give an important insight on this wide range of problems.

The old Jesuit saying is "Give me the child for the first seven years, and I'll give you the man" - the thesis of Sue Gerhardt's accomplished book goes one better, "Give me the infant for two years and I'll show you the man"! Drawing on her own experience as a psychotherapist (particularly in the setting of the Oxford Parent Infant Project that she co-founded), as well as cutting-edge neurological and psychological research, she builds a convincing case for how essential it is to meet the emotional and developmental needs of babies during the first two years of their life. In a clear and comprehensive manner that's accessible to all, she shows how even the very structure of the brain is modified during this phase of life depending on the infant's environment, in particular the behaviour, responsiveness and availability of its primary care giver (usually the mother).
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Alan M on 17 July 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book will be very interesting for those into developmental psychology during the early years of childhood. However, those (like myself) who might buy the book expecting to find a wider coverage of the problems with society today, will likely be disappointed with it. The main thrust is that the quality of care and upbringing that a child receives in the first couple of years of life, largely determines whether their adult behaviour will be good (caring, empathic, sensitive to others, etc) or bad (selfish, materialistic, status-obsessed, etc). While I have great respect for the author's depth of knowledge in this field, I think that (a) there are many other influences that determine how an adult behaves, and (b) the adult's behaviour, outlook and values can change markedly over time in response to life experiences.

I would like to have seen a broader coverage of modern day selfish behaviour and how it might be addressed to improve our society. It would be rather depressing to conclude that our adult behaviour is so largely determined by the care we receive in the first two years of life, and I for one don't accept this is true. The book suggests that if we can improve the early years experience, then in 20 years time we will start to see a generation of well-adjusted, society-friendly adults emerging to make our society "better". While we should certainly do this, I think there are other ways we can try to influence the behaviour of those already beyond this age, and the book should have tried to cover this.

Still an interesting read, but perhaps the title should have reflected the main focus on early years child development.
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