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Selfish Sap it from ism and Sock it to ism...
on 8 December 2011
A distinctly Darwinian strain of neo-liberalism which emerged in English speaking worlds during the 1970s that increased materialism and emotional stress, much to the chagrin of the author - a practising psychoanalyst. Depending on your political reality of neo-liberalism (for example Scandanavian, neo-conservative or the curious Chinese experiment) there was and still is the lure, false promise or even expectation that trickle-down wealth creation has a beneficial effect on living standards which counter-intuitively it is argued (with a blinding amount of statistics) is completely illusory from a health perspective.
At times 'The Selfish Capitalist' is reminiscent of an old skool Marxist polemic that points the blame directly at the mechanisms and excesses of free-reigning capitalism - of the "4 legs good, two legs bad" kind - and a reframing of the nasty capitalism debate can read as a common sensible analysis of the state of the nation's emotional well-being.
References to Eric Fromm provide a history lesson in 'being' over 'having' as a measure of happiness, where the intrinsic motivations of autonomy, satisfaction and learning rather than extrinsic rewards of beauty, power and money (though pursuing money has its varying levels of attachment amongst wealth seekers) contribute towards a deeper fulfilment.
An altruistic - or be it political - set of processes to counter the unique brand of wayward neo-liberalism is posited: fairness, reciprocity and a sacrifice of gains through regulations and penalties - though not to everyone's tribal palette - are exhibit able characteristics of much healthier countries around the world, (e.g. Denmark).
In summary, James commingles recent WHO statistics on emotional health with ex post rationality from the fall-out of the biggest financial crash (2008) this century to produce a welcomed "psycho-economics" that, putting ideologies aside, is a prepossessing argument. However if there is one criticism it might be that the title of the book too readily sums-up its health report which appears more of an after thought to 'Affluenza' in scope rather than anything revelatory.