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American Mania: When More Is Not Enoughby Peter Whybrow
Synopses & Reviews
In this startling analysis of our prosperous American society, renowned psychiatrist Peter Whybrow reveals why as a nation of acquisitive migrants our insatiable quest for more now threatens our health and happiness. Whybrow describes an affluence in America that far outstrips our need and a rampant greed spawning the addictions of consumer culture--food, money, and technology. Citing the alarming statistics of obesity, depression, and panic disorders, Whybrow alerts us to a behavior that is now testing the limits of our ancestral biology--in mind and body--and threatens in erode the very foundations of our community. Drawing upon detailed case studies, Whybrow offers compassionate guidance and a novel vantage point from which to understand some of the most pressing social and medical issues of our tune. This provocative volume, grounded in science and philosophy, calls for collective action in refocusing our pursuit of happiness and enhancing America's prosperity.
"The indictment of American society offered here — that America's supercharged free-market capitalism shackles us to a treadmill of overwork and overconsumption, frays family and community ties and leaves us anxious, alienated and overweight — is familiar. What's more idiosyncratic and compelling is the author's grounding his treatise in political economy (citing everyone from Adam Smith to Thorstein Veblen) as well as in neuropsychiatry, primatology and genetics. Psychiatrist Whybrow (Mood Apart) diagnoses a form of clinical mania in which 'the dopamine reward systems of the brain are... hijacked' by pleasurable frenzies like the Internet bubble. Genes are to blame: programmed to crave material rewards on the austere savanna, they go bananas in an economy of superabundance. Americans are particularly susceptible because they are descended from immigrants with a higher frequency of the 'exploratory and novelty-seeking D4-7 allele' in the dopamine receptor system, which predisposes them to impulsivity and addiction. The malady is 'treatable,' Whybrow asserts, not with Paxil but with a vaguely defined program of communitarianism and recovery therapeutics, exemplified by his friends Peanut, a farmer rooted in the land, and Tom, a formerly manic entrepreneur who has learned to live in the present moment. Whybrow's analysis of the contemporary rat race is acute, and by medicalizing the problem he locates it in behavior and genetics — away from the arena of conventional political and economic action where more systemic solutions might surface, but toward a place where individual responsibility can turn 'self-interest into social fellowship.' Agent, Zoe Pagnamenta. (Jan.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Book News Annotation:
Whybrow (psychiatry and bio-behavioral science, UCLA, and director of the Neuropsychiatric Institute) analyzes the American compulsion to "shop 'til we drop," by considering the roots of American culture as a laissez-faire, competitive, free-market economy. He also connects consumerism to America's immigrant temperament and to the biology of human craving and the reward system of the brain, ultimately offering a physical explanation for the addictive mania of consumerism. He concludes with a reconsideration of prosperity and suggests that happiness is more likely found in compassion and community than in acquisition.
Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
In this startling analysis of a prosperous American society, renowned psychiatrist Whybrow reveals why, as a nation of acquisitive migrants, people's insatiable quest for "more" now threatens its citizens' health and happiness.
A doctor's bold analysis of the cultural disease that afflicts us all.
Despite an astonishing appetite for life, more and more Americans are feeling overworked and dissatisfied. In the world's most affluent nation, epidemic rates of stress, anxiety, depression, obesity, and time urgency are now grudgingly accepted as part of everyday existence--they signal the American Dream gone awry. Peter C. Whybrow, director of the Neuropsychiatric Institute at UCLA, grounds the extraordinary achievements and excessive consumption of the American nation in an understanding of the biology of the brain's reward system--offering for the first time a comprehensive and physical explanation for the addictive mania of consumerism.
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