The Triple Package Paperback
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Top customer reviews
These groups are not genetically superior or recipients of unfair advantages, argue authors Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld. They share three cultural characteristics the authors call "The Triple Package." Members of each group have a Superiority Complex, "...a deeply internalized belief in your group's specialness, exceptionality, or superiority." Members of successful groups are characterized by Insecurity, "...a species of discontent--an anxious uncertainty about your worth or place in society, a feeling or worry that you or what you've done or what you have is in some fundamental way not good enough." Finally, these cultural subgroups value Impulse Control, "...the ability to resist temptation, especially the temptation to give up in the face of hardship or quit instead of persevering at a difficult task."
Triple Package values run counter to three strong currents in contemporary American culture. Rather than regarding any person or culture as Superior to any other, Americans shy away from comparative judgments. Insecurity is seen as a threat to self-esteem, which has become a core value in public education where the competition which can lead to achievement is softened to reduce disappointment and negative self-esteem. Impulse Control is incompatible with the immediate gratification and unrestrained freedom valued in our indulgent, youth-oriented culture. Triple Package subcultures are successful in part because they contrast so sharply with the mainstream culture around them.
The book explores how these values are manifest differently in the eight successful subcultures. There are analyses of how successive generations can lose their subcultural heritage, becoming simultaneously more mainstream and less successful. Contrasts with the values of poverty-stricken subcultures, such as those found in Appalachia and inner-city neighborhoods highlight the advantages of Triple Package values as a path to individual as well as group success.
This is a well-researched and thoughtfully written book. The arguments and supporting evidence are clearly communicated. An extensive and usable chapter notes section allows readers to engage with the authors' main points in depth. This book is highly recommended for anyone interested in subgroup differences in contemporary American culture.
The three cultural traits, the Triple Package (i.e. a superiority complex, insecurity, and impulse control or self-discipline) "is accessible to anyone. It's a set of values and beliefs, habits and practices, that individuals from any background can make a part of their lives or their children's lives, enabling them to pursue success as they define it." Chua and Rubenfeld examine several groups but focus primarily on, listed alphabetically, on African-, Asian-, Cuban-, Hispanic and Latino-, Indian-, Iranian-, and Nigerian- as well as Jews and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints (LDS) or Mormons.
It is important, indeed essential to keep in mind that Chua and Rubenfeld do NOT suggest that all members of each group aspire to or are under severe pressure to embrace and personify the Triple Package. I hasten to add that the nature and extent of each attribute in those who do possess all three vary, sometimes significantly. Chua and Rubenfeld's aforementioned premise -- their information and insights -- are research-driven (as indicated by extensively annotated notes, Pages 231-308) and what I found of greatest interest and value are the patterns revealed by that research. These patterns help to explain (at least to some extent) values and behavior. For example:
o Children in the U.S.A. are taught to believe that everyone is equal, that no group is superior to another. However, all of the most successful groups in this country tend to believe (although they may not say so) that they're exceptional, chosen, or superior in one or more ways.
o Children are taught that self-esteem is the key to success. However, in the groups that Chua and Rubenfeld examine, members tend to feel insecure, unworthy, inadequate...and must prove themselves otherwise.
o One of the major cultural values in the U.S.A. is immediate gratification, "living in the moment." However, all of the most successful groups tend to affirm the need for -- and cultivate -- strict self-discipline and impulse control.
I use the phrase "tend to" intentionally. Chua and Rubenfeld are commendably sensitive to the perils of ethnic stereotyping and I do not wish to suggest (or even imply) otherwise. As they explain, "Superiority plus insecurity is a formula for drive. Superiority plus impulse control is a formula for hardship endurance. When the Triple Package brings all three elements together in a group's culture, members of that group become disproportionately willing and able to do or accept whatever it takes today in order to make it tomorrow."
These are among the dozens of business subjects and issues of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of Chua and Rubenfeld's coverage.
o Jews and academic achievement (Pages 24-26 and 193-196)
o Cuban American Exiles (36-41, 71-72, and 87-89)
o Insecurity: Jews and Mormons (60-68)
o Mormons and superiority complex (64-68)
o African Americans and superiority complex (72-78)
o Iranian Americans and insecurity/scorn (89-95)
o Indian Americans and insecurity/scorn (95-102)
o Chinese Americans and academic achievement (123-124, 126-131, and 171-173)
o America and the Triple Package (199-225)
When concluding their immensely thoughtful and thought-provoking book, Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld observe, "At the end of the day, the Triple Package is a form of empowerment, which can be used for selfish gain or for others' good alike. People who have it are not guaranteed anything, and they run the risk of real pathologies. But they are in a position to transform their own and others' lives...The real promise of a Triple Package America is the promise of a day when there are no longer any successful groups in the United States -- only successful individuals."
I agree with the spirit of that last sentence but presume to suggest that, with very rare exceptions, those who make the American Dream a reality for themselves do so with the assistance of countless others.
Overall I am disappointed in the content of the book and it felt like an extremely drawn out journal article or thesis, padded out with lots of historical accounts of ethnic minorities within the USA.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
This book is controversial, but she makes a pretty convincing, if simplistic argument - people that succeed are those who are confident enough to have an inherent sense that they can accomplish something, are introspective enough to have a realistic view of their flaws and strengths, and are tenacious and focused enough to see their goals through to completion; furthermore, they are able to pursue hard work with the promise of delayed reward without being distracted by immediate gratification. That much I can agree with. What I don't necessarily agree with is that some cultures 'have it' and others don't. What I think is true is the emphasis on family environment in terms of later success - some families live by the 'triple package' premise and others, less so, and while it may be more common in certain cultures, it certainly isn't exclusive to them.
I also agree with her acknowledgement that this "triple package" doesn't come without adverse side effects. Full disclosure - I grew up in a half-Asian (though not Chinese or Indian, the two Asian subgroups she emphasizes in the book) family and had a sort of watered-down "tiger childhood". I grew up playing Chopin and Bach on the piano for hours on end, being expected to succeed on all forms of standardized tests, and facing the comparisons to parents' friend's children when I didn't live up to expectations. Socializing on weekends was the exception, not a rule growing up, and - like Chua states - most weekends were spent on extracurricular pursuits. Some kids really do thrive on this, and I was probably one of them - I naturally had an interest in science, truly dreamed of being a 'research scientist' since I was 8, and ultimately ended up graduating from medical school and ending up in a research-oriented specialty. But others do not - the 'triple package' by design emphasizes conventional success (as Chua notes, often in career paths which are well-established such as medicine and law), and children whose interests and skills fall outside of the culturally accepted norm - i.e.., arts and humanities in particular - often end up feeling stifled and lost, at least amongst my friends with similar childhood experiences.
Chua's book really lays out the facts - it argues both the pros and cons of this 'triple package' culture, and though it emphasizes the successes of those who follow it, it doesn't shy away from discussion of the perils of aggressively overemphasizing achievement, and ultimately you can draw the conclusions for yourself. Would you raise your kids with these values? My personal opinion is that in moderation each of these traits is probably beneficial. Emphasizing hard work and impulse control is never a bad thing, but to take it to the extreme that the "Tiger Mother" memoir entails is too much.
But beyond personal affinity, an objective citizen cannot help but notice the data on certain population groups achieving above-average economic success in the face of daunting obstacles, including minority status and language differences, while other groups stagnate at and below the average. I admire the courage of the authors to discuss these inconvenient truths openly even though they clash with political correctness. I found many sections of the book eye-opening. I reject the slur that some left-wing reactionaries have flung at the book, that it is racist. Nothing in here treats persons of color differently than the white majority. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find anything in this book that treats the majority demographic group in the US favorably at all. Only Mormons and Jews as subsets of the white majority will find their values reinforced.
The book is very, very easy to read. My only criticism of the book is that certain sections were a little too anecdote-driven. Where they had data to back up their arguments, those chapters were fantastic. I urge all persons considering the book to read it.
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