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Together: The Rituals, Pleasures and Politics of Cooperation [Hardcover]

Richard Sennett
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

2 Feb 2012

Living with people who differ -- racially, ethnically, religiously, or economically -- is one of the most difficult challenges facing us today. Though our society is becoming ever more complicated materially, we tend to avoid engaging with people unlike ourselves. Modern politics emphasizes unity and similarity, encouraging the politics of the tribe rather than of complexity. Together: the rituals, pleasures and politics of Co-operation explores why this has happened and what might be done about it.

Sennett argues that living with people unlike ourselves requires more than goodwill: it requires skill. The foundations for skillful co-operation lie in learning to listen well and to discuss rather than debate. People who develop these capacities earn a reward: they can take pleasure in the company of others.

Together traces the evolution of cooperative rituals in medieval churches and guilds, Renaissance workshops and courts, early modern laboratories and diplomatic embassies. In our lives today, it explains the trials and prospects of cooperation online, face-to-face in ethnic conflicts, among financial workers and community organizers.

Exploring the nature of cooperation, why it has become weak, and how it could be strengthened, this visionary book offers a new way of seeing how humans can live together.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane (2 Feb 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0713998741
  • ISBN-13: 978-0713998740
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 336,737 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


As challenging and demanding as cooperation is, it has been our species' secret weapon, and those of us alive today are the descendants of people who had what it takes to make it work. This thoughtful book outlines the craftsmanship we will need to ensure that it continues to do so (Mark Pagel New Scientist)

A fresh exploration of one of the oldest conundrums facing social theory, which is how cooperation between people is forged and maintained (Frank Furedi Times Higher Education)

To call this captivating writer an academic sociologist makes as much, or as little, sense as labelling Mozart a court musician ... Eclectic, ecumenical, Sennett leads us with charm and candour down his chosen routes to renovation (Boyd Tonkin The Independent)

Together is a profound mediation on how humans act as social animals, and an inspiring call for us all to try and embrace differences of tribe, religion and class (Ian Critchley Sunday Times)

The book offers an artisanal response to a post-industrial condition ... In this sense, Sennett is a true heir to John Ruskin and William Morris (Terry Eagleton Times Literary Supplement)

Richard Sennett's new book is an excellent resource to help us [work with others], and what shines through it is Sennett's own humanity. He is an excellent scholar and a very agile thinker ... this is a book that should be widely read (Kester Brewin Third Way)

Co-operation is hard because it is about learning to live with people who think differently or don't know what they think at all. Sennett wants to remind us that this is a skill, and like any skill it takes patience and practice (David Runciman The Guardian) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Richard Sennett was founder director of the New York Institute for the Humanities, and is now University Professor at New York University. He has previously won the Amalfi and Ebert prizes for sociology and in 2010 was awarded the Spinoza Prize for outstanding contributions to public debate on ethics and morality. Together forms part of a three-book project on 'homo faber, 'focusing on the skills human beings possess to make a life together;the first volume of this large project, The Craftsman, was published in 2008. He is the author of many celebrated books including The Fall of Public Man, Flesh and Stone and The Corrosion of Character.

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Customer Reviews

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4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
I heard Sennett on the BBC radio recently 'in dialogue' about this book. He practices what he preaches (and suggests) in an admirable fashion. This book is a great service to 21st-century society. He has begun the task of a restoration of a sense of nobility and value in the often-discredited notions of 'humanism', 'community' and 'collective.' Sennett's book is a nuanced antidote to narrow, selfish, acquisitive individualism. His book will appeal to academic non-specialist readers alike.

I've long admired Montaigne's mature blog-like essays and find in them a mercurial pre-modernity that our post-modernity could learn much from. Sennett sent me back to read them again with fresh insight and renewed optimism.

The perceptive and distinguished Mr Sennett has harnessed a variety and range of otherwise fragmented topics into an appealing new ethics and practice of co-operation. This book marks a valued addition to an ongoing project to rethink life, arts/crafts and creativity.

For British readers I would also add a recommendation for Henry Hemming's Together: How Small Groups Achieve Big Things.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Collaboration 27 Jun 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
For those who have read "The Craftsman", Richard Sennet needs no introduction. Even tough he does not provide us with another masterpiece, Sennet presents here the deep roots of our potencialities and difficulties to collaborate with one another. For those who try to go deeper in determining if collaboration in organizations will have its way in the future, it is necessary to read this book
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Prof. Sennett's Together 17 April 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A fascinating discussion of the forces destroying social cohesion in western cultures, slowly spreading across the globe with increased materialism and globalisation of employment.

Analysis of the strategies to overcome the social isolation and how to work "together" provides a starting point for any reader concerned with what has been misleadingly called "The Big Society", at a time of considerable constraint on funding and attack of "social welfare".
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5.0 out of 5 stars Continuing reading... 8 Jun 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
...from the Craftsman and finding it a wealth of knowledge presented, as in The Craftsman, in a very readable and pleasurable form. Sadly, Amazon doesn't pay its fair amount of UK corporate taxes.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars But what to do!!! 12 Jun 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I am an admirer of Sennett's work, and recently saw him speak about this book at the Southbank. But the picture that emerges here is a bit confusing; there are certain types of cooperation that Sennett likes and other styles that he doesn't but these are not distinguished so much by action as by result. This gives proceedings a partial air, suggesting that some forms of cooperation are privileged over others, and it can be hard to tell exactly why. Sennett is right to attack the quasi-corporate cooperation based in superficial group 'working' that masks individual maneuvering, and the instant professional relationships that can be struck up given that no parties are actually committed to them, but the overall impression is that he can't quite define the issue his evidence is pointing to. The complex he describes of technological change, corporate power, political failure and social apathy is a debilitating one for any society, and by this account we certainly have it.
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