Synopses & Reviews
With unequaled insight and brio, David Brooks, the New York Times
columnist and bestselling author of Bobos in Paradise,
has long explored and explained the way we live. Now, with the intellectual curiosity and emotional wisdom that make his columns among the most read in the nation, Brooks turns to the building blocks of human flourishing in a multilayered, profoundly illuminating work grounded in everyday life.
This is the story of how success happens. It is told through the lives of one composite American couple, Harold and Erica — how they grow, push forward, are pulled back, fail, and succeed. Distilling a vast array of information into these two vividly realized characters, Brooks illustrates a fundamental new understanding of human nature. A scientific revolution has occurred — we have learned more about the human brain in the last thirty years than we had in the previous three thousand. The unconscious mind, it turns out, is most of the mind — not a dark, vestigial place but a creative and enchanted one, where most of the brain’s work gets done. This is the realm of emotions, intuitions, biases, longings, genetic predispositions, personality traits, and social norms: the realm where character is formed and where our most important life decisions are made. The natural habitat of The Social Animal.
Drawing on a wealth of current research from numerous disciplines, Brooks takes Harold and Erica from infancy to school; from the “odyssey years” that have come to define young adulthood to the high walls of poverty; from the nature of attachment, love, and commitment, to the nature of effective leadership. He reveals the deeply social aspect of our very minds and exposes the bias in modern culture that overemphasizes rationalism, individualism, and IQ. Along the way, he demolishes conventional definitions of success while looking toward a culture based on trust and humility.
The Social Animal is a moving and nuanced intellectual adventure, a story of achievement and a defense of progress. Impossible to put down, it is an essential book for our time, one that will have broad social impact and will change the way we see ourselves and the world.
"New York Times columnist Brooks (Bobos in Paradise) raids Malcolm Gladwell's pop psychology turf in a wobbly treatise on brain science, human nature, and public policy. Essentially a satirical novel interleaved with disquisitions on mirror neurons and behavioral economics, the narrative chronicles the life cycle of a fictional couple Harold, a historian working at a think tank, and Erica, a Chinese-Chicana cable-TV executive as a case study of the nonrational roots of social behaviors, from mating and shopping to voting. Their story lets Brooks mock the affluent and trendy while advancing soft neoconservative themes: that genetically ingrained emotions and biases trump reason; that social problems require cultural remedies (charter schools, not welfare payments); that the class divide is about intelligence, deportment, and taste, not money or power. Brooks is an engaging guide to the 'cognitive revolution' in psychology, but what he shows us amounts mainly to restating platitudes. (Women like men with money, we learn, while men like women with breasts.) His attempt to inflate recent research on neural mechanisms into a grand worldview yields little except buzz concepts 'society is a layering of networks' no more persuasive than the rationalist dogmas he derides. (Mar.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"An uncommonly brilliant blend of sociology, intellect and allegory." Kirkus, Starred Review
About the Author
David Brooks is an op-ed columnist for The New York Times. He has been a senior editor at The Weekly Standard and a contributing editor at Newsweek and The Atlantic Monthly, and he is a weekly commentator on PBS NewsHour. He is the author of the bestseller Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There and On Paradise Drive: How We Live Now (And Always Have) in the Future Tense.
Table of Contents
THE SOCIAL ANIMAL
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Decision-Making
Chapter 2: The Map Meld
Chapter 3: Mindsight
Chapter 4: Mapmaking
Chapter 5: Attachment
Chapter 6: Learning
Chapter 7: Norms
Chapter 8: Self-Control
Chapter 9: Culture
Chapter 10: Intelligence
Chapter 11: Choice Architecture
Chapter 12: Freedom and Commitment
Chapter 13: Limerence
Chapter 14: The Grand Narrative
Chapter 15: Metis
Chapter 16: The Insurgency
Chapter 17: Getting Older
Chapter 18: Morality
Chapter 19: The Leader
Chapter 20: The Soft Side
Chapter 21: The Other Education
Chapter 22: Meaning