Britain On The Couch: How keeping up with the Joneses has depressed us since 1950 Paperback – 7 Jan 2010
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'A fascinating book' --Sunday Times
‘[James’] calm rationality and the care for precise truth shown in his analysis of available evidence about status and politics (sexual and not) reminded me that this book… is about defining, and then seeking, a changed way of life … his book's time has come’ --The Guardian
‘If anything, more relevant now than it was in 1998’ --London Evening Standard
'Vital questions are explored in this stimulating tract for our times, which deserves to be widely read, especially by those who govern us' --Anthony Storr
'Well worth reading ... the author has recognised important social phenomena which have escaped less astute or honest observers' --Sunday Telegraph
'Oliver James is a necessary and powerful voice in our culture, and Britain on the Couch is a fabulous exposure of the failure of the neo-liberal project' --Tom Hodgkinson, editor of The Idler
Why we're unhappier compared with 1950, despite being richer - from bestselling author of Affluenza, Oliver JamesSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
I did not feel it was overtly nostalgic for a "golden age" which is what some other reviewers seem to infer. However, James did refer back 50 years to an era when there was manifestly less marketing and gave a compelling, if not irrefutable, case for mass-marketing being a core reason why we are less happy now.
I suggest you read this book, but do not expect it to make you happy or fulfilled. If, however, you are unhappy then it may help you contextualise some of your dissatisfaction with consumer society. It is also a healthy book to read if you have young children - know how advertising works, how it influences and what it does. It may make you alter some aspects of your kids' telly viewing, that's for sure.
But are James’ arguments valid? It is possible to disagree with many of James’ points. Firstly, statistics can be used to demonstrate almost anything and many of those cited by James are misleading and exaggerate the increase in mental health difficulties and social problems.
Secondly, it can be said that he emphasizes today’s problems and minimizes those of previous times; is it really true, that the feudal serf was not so discontented; or that Japanese women do not suffer unhappiness because of their low status? And is the author really saying that people in 1950s – or earlier – did not aspire to better status and compared themselves unfavorably with others?
Thirdly, both the awareness and diagnosis of mental health conditions have changed since the 1950s; many normal processes and activities, which are part and parcel of being human, have been pathologised and medicalised by an ever expanding army of mental health professionals with careers and positions to protect.
Fourthly, James cites the increase in the incidence of divorces as a cause of increasing unhappiness; but the situation that existed when divorce was not easily available, when people were trapped in unhappy marriages – caused untold misery.Read more ›
In the later chapters James becomes more opinionated, particularly as he starts to give advice about what sort of therapy the serotonin-deficient among us might go for. Admittedly, evidence for the effectiveness of particular therapies is scant, but this does not deter James from emphasising psychodynamic and cognitive-behavioural approaches at the expense of what he calls, oddly and with no elaboration, 'middle' therapies. In his enthusiasm to distinguish counselling from psychotherapy, he virtually dismisses the former as 'something you do when someone close to you has died'. A lot of effort has gone into describing psychoanalysis, even though it is hardly available outside London and is rarely indicated these days except for the super-rich.
Some of the suggestions James puts forward in his last chapter for treating the low-serotonin society verge on the authoritarian. I happen to agree with him about some of these [e.g. limiting certain types of advertising] but his case has the character of a rant, which detracts somewhat from the erudition and rationality of the preceding chapters.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Yes, I got the point after 5 pages. Yawn, goes on and on. A shame as it is a good point.Published 17 months ago by Twenty-Twenty
the product was not in the 'used - GOOD' condition stated, the front cover was badly ripped and bent.Published 19 months ago by Lisa-Marie Brooks
And more thoroughly argued. I think that since he is not any kind of conservative, he should think more carefully about the relationship between his argument and conservatism. Read morePublished on 30 May 2008 by Jezza
Oliver James is a controversial media figure because he speaks his mind. While I do not agree with all his views, as a sufferer of depression most of this book rang true with... Read morePublished on 30 Nov. 2006 by Ms. Katherine C. Petty
Oliver James dry and straight to the point account of a low serotonin society. He informs us of the changes and the devastating effects of the rising capatalism since the 1950's. Read morePublished on 15 Aug. 2001
This is a life changing book. The ideas running throughout the whole book are excellent, enlightening and even seminal. Read morePublished on 26 April 2001