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The Impulse Society: America in the Age of Instant Gratification

The Impulse Society: America in the Age of Instant Gratification
by Paul Roberts

It's something most of us have sensed for years—the rise of a world defined only by “mine” and “now.” A world where business shamelessly seeks the fastest reward, regardless of the long-term social consequences; where political leaders reflexively choose short-term fixes over broad, sustainable social progress; where individuals feel increasingly exploited by a marketplace obsessed with our private cravings yet oblivious to our spiritual well-being or the larger needs of our families and communities.

At the heart of The Impulse Society is an urgent, powerful story: how the pursuit of short-term self-gratification, once scorned as a sign of personal weakness, became the default principle not only for individuals, but for all sectors of our society. Drawing on the latest research in economics, psychology, political philosophy, and business management, Paul Roberts shows how a potent combination of rapidly advancing technologies, corrupted ideologies, and bottom-line business ethics has pushed us across a threshold to an unprecedented state: a virtual merging of the market and the self. The result is a socioeconomic system ruled by impulse, by the reflexive, id-like drive for the largest, quickest, most “efficient” reward, without regard for long-term costs to ourselves or to broader society.

More than thirty years ago, Christopher Lasch hinted at this bleak world in his landmark book, The Culture of Narcissism. In The Impulse Society, Roberts shows how that self-destructive pattern has grown so pervasive that anxiety and emptiness are becoming embedded in our national character. Yet it is in this unease that Roberts finds clear signs of change—and broad revolt as millions of Americans try step off the self-defeating treadmill of gratification and restore a sense of balance. Fresh, vital, and free of ideological, right-wing/left-wing formulations, The Impulse Society shows the way back to a world of real and lasting good.
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The Impulse Society: America in the Age of Instant Gratification
Mary Ann Gwinn

Mary Ann Says:

Paul Roberts covers a lot of ground in “The Impulse Society.”  His book helped me understand how much change people living in the late 20th and early 21st centuries have lived through. His examination of consumer behavior has sent me on a mission to figure out how to disable all the “place order” buttons on retail web sites that attract my attention  -- I am afraid online shopping is one of my weaknesses.

Terry Tazioli

Terry Says:

One thing you might want to do is read a few lines of this book every time you head to the grocery store, or the shoe store, or the house of fashion, or any other retail outlet. Paul Roberts will speak to you about your impulses, and why “need” ought to become your mantra, as opposed to “want.” Easy to think that this tome on the “gimme” society might be utterly depressing. In some ways it is. In other ways, it’s a call to action, Roberts’ style. He’s already penned “The End of Food” and “The End of Oil.” I’m kind of hoping that this is the end of the “Ends.” We’ll see. Meantime, put back that $13.95 box of pasta.

about the author: Paul Roberts

Paul Roberts is the author of three books — The Impulse Society: America in the Age of Instant GratificationThe End of Food (2008); and The End of Oil: On the Edge of a Perilous New World (2004). A journalist since 1983, Roberts has also written for The Los Angeles TimesThe Washington Post, and The (UK) Guardianand his work has appeared in SlateUSA TodayThe New RepublicNewsweekThe Christian Science MonitorRolling Stone, and Outside magazine. He also appears regularly on national and international television and radio news shows, including BBC, CNBC with Erin Burnett, PBS NewsHour, MSNBC, CBS Evening News, and on NPR’s Morning Edition, On Point, Weekend Edition, and Fresh Air. He lives with his family in Washington State.

Other Books by the Author:

The End of Oil: On the Edge of a Perilous New World (2004)

The End of Food (2008)

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