Guide We Have Met the Enemy: self-control in an age of excess

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Daniel Akst's "We Have Met the Enemy: Self -Control in an Age of Excess"

Even borderline libertarian Akst leaves the door open that social and genetic factors might be behind our frailties when it comes to Mischel's "marshmallow studies. Conducted in the late s and early s when Mischel was at Stanford, children in these experiments were told that they could eventually have two sweets if they could delay eating one. Those with the greatest ability to delay gratification a minority went on to do better on college tests. The ones with the least willpower proved to be more susceptible to temptation. That this undercuts an argument that self-control is elective is strangely finessed when Akst moves on to crime.

He cites research on poor impulse control in criminals, bundling it with speculation that it may be heritable. This packaging amounts to an expedient eclipse of his own theme. Figures from the book's opening all but disappear from consideration, as if unsuitable for discussion of free will. And so the largest hole in this book is the size of our slums and waddling suburbias, where it's easier to buy a pint of scotch than fresh fruit or where candy is always child-level at the checkout. The influence of religion is also scantly traced.

In a joke best understood by himself, Akst titles a chapter on Freud "Let my people go," bringing to mind Moses and black spirituals. As for the father of modern psychiatry and the disinhibited era that followed him, let it be noted — as Akst does repeatedly — that Freud smoked. The availability of deadly substances such as tobacco isn't Akst's point: What really troubles him about the disease model of addiction is that "an addict's behavior can be affected by incentives, while the symptoms of cystic fibrosis cannot.

Among the mounting environmental pressures preying on us, Akst does point to technology, asking: Why write a term paper when one can be bought on the Internet? In a weird moment, he writes, "The same is true of sex, available now almost literally on demand, at least for gay men trolling Craigslist…". The suggestion that only gay men hook up through Craigslist is barmy. This indulgence investigator set out to study excess in libraries and laboratories, anywhere but supermarkets, streets, betting parlors and bars.

He brags that he married his dentist. Akst closes by writing, "That self-control is the biggest problem faced by many of the world's people is a blessing in not much of a disguise. Do read it if you agree that the 19th century Frenchman served us up on a half shell, and all you need is either Tabasco or lemon from Akst. The author advocates self-control but doesn't seem to have control of his argument.

And really, I feel like this book explores self-discipline more than anything. Ever since a college English professor told me he thought I was "brilliant, but undisciplined," I have been wrestling with the notion of self-discipline and how and when to wield it in this modern day society.

Why Sitting Down Destroys You

I can procrastinate with the best of them I am prone to addictive behaviors I definitely do not exert discipline in many areas of my life. And yet in other areas of my life, I exhibit a huge amount of discipline that helps me to accomplish quite a bit. After reading We Have Met the Enemy, I feel like I have a few more tools in terms of understanding what makes me tick and perhaps how to be more successful in setting and establishing goals that have eluded me in the past.

I enjoyed the many examples, the intense research and the conversational tone of this book. I did not like some aspects to it In the end, capitalism was questioned as much as anything and I feel like really Akst is probably some type of libertarian. And he also made some inaccurate comments in the chapter about crimes of passion in terms of gender equality under the law. I do feel like even if we do not share the same viewpoints of this world, Akst is somebody that I could sit at he table with and have a great conversation or debate.

And I am yearning for that these days Jan 14, Skylar Burris rated it liked it Shelves: We have become a nation of Madame Bovarys, over-indulgent, bored, listless, and killing ourselves.


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For the full review, click here. Jun 13, Les rated it it was ok Shelves: Because it seems appropriate to have at least 6 "currently reading" books fired up while reading about excess. I'm hoping to learn how to lose a good pounds, stop having all the sex, and reign in my gambling habit. After reading a few pages of this, maybe I am not all that excessive in my habits. Jan 06, Tanya rated it really liked it Shelves: I just won this book through Goodreads yes, sisters, I reviewed the silly highland hunk book last night, and won this one hours later , and it sounds like a great one to start off the year.

I, as others probably did, initially thought I just won this book through Goodreads yes, sisters, I reviewed the silly highland hunk book last night, and won this one hours later , and it sounds like a great one to start off the year. I, as others probably did, initially thought this would be a sort of self-help book, "ten steps to conquering the enemy within" or some such thing. In truth it takes a much more academic approach, delving into historical developments in the psychology of self-restraint.

I can't help but think that it would be off the charts on the SRI scholastic reading inventory comprehension index; I had to reread many sentences multiple times just to assimilate the vocabulary and context. This is not to say, however, that the book was dry, because humor was continually interspersed. As someone who has always been extremely self-disciplined, I don't know that I was inspired to greater heights of control by "We Have Met the Enemy," but I enjoyed learning what Akst had to share.

Sep 19, David Glasgow rated it it was amazing Shelves: Akst begins this book by complaining about what an arduous task it is to write a book. This may seem a poor welcome for one's "reader-clients," but it works. Before I'd turned the first page I recognized already that We Have Met the Enemy would not only require me to look unflinchingly at the dread and shame that so often accompany self-improvement efforts, but also would through humor and self-deprecating sympathy help me to reframe these efforts weight management, long-term projects, and eve Akst begins this book by complaining about what an arduous task it is to write a book.

Before I'd turned the first page I recognized already that We Have Met the Enemy would not only require me to look unflinchingly at the dread and shame that so often accompany self-improvement efforts, but also would through humor and self-deprecating sympathy help me to reframe these efforts weight management, long-term projects, and even avoiding bad moods, to name a few as fully achievable goals. It's not quite a "self-help" book, as one of the fundamental lessons of the book is that we humans can't control ourselves nearly as well as we think we can.

But the literary examples and research Akst cites all offer optimism: By securing networks of accountability, controlling our environment, and nurturing good habits, we can "meet the enemy," and discover that we really can triumph over ourselves and be proud of the results. Even if it's not always fun. Jan 08, Jennifer rated it liked it. A goodreads FIrst reads win! The book "We Have Met the Enemy Self Control in an Age of Excess" was an interesting study. The author keeps the reader interested with all sorts of fascinating tales of out-of-control stories that range in finance, weight gain, time, etc.

He even explains that he is not exempt. From the opening about the size weight scales are being made for people From that po A goodreads FIrst reads win! From that point on, I enjoyed the book. This is not my typical book I would be remiss to say that there were parts I got lost in. That and I read a lot while I was working out. I think I enjoyed the last chapter which summed everything up and pointed out ways that we possibly could gain better self control May 06, Janet rated it it was amazing Shelves: I was very surprised that I ended up giving this book five stars, especially since there were a couple of sections I skimmed, but overall it was both fun and insightful.

His hero is Odysseus, who - being both self-aware and cognizant of the threats in his envir I was very surprised that I ended up giving this book five stars, especially since there were a couple of sections I skimmed, but overall it was both fun and insightful. His hero is Odysseus, who - being both self-aware and cognizant of the threats in his environment during the trip home from Troy - managed to enjoy the delights that presented themselves without falling prey to them. Akst discusses the banking crash, Freud and Maslow, the Puritans and the 's, consumerism, social controls and the lack thereof , all with an entertaining, breezy style that still delivers a convincing case for developing better self awareness, better self control and -- consequently -- a better, healthier life.

Jul 25, Jadewolf rated it really liked it. A very interesting read that explores the question of how much responsibility should we take for our actions in an age of excess! Not an addictive page turner, but once I read the entire book, I was thinking about different topics and arguments from it every day! I found the author explored the different viewpoints about self-discipline well, with a li A very interesting read that explores the question of how much responsibility should we take for our actions in an age of excess! I found the author explored the different viewpoints about self-discipline well, with a little humour added in!

I enjoyed the last few chapters of the book the most; about the role of self-discipline in our everyday lives. Best suited to those who have an interest in the subject, or those studying psychology and self-control. Jan 14, Faith rated it it was ok. I won this book as a Goodreads giveaway. I tried to like this, but I really just can't understand why I would want to read an entire book about lack of self control in modern society and how our society has changed in a bad way.

It was actually quite depressing, and I couldn't even finish it. To be fair, this is not my kind of book and not something I would have picked up had I not received it as a giveaway book. Apr 05, Michael added it. Jul 25, Travis Timmons rated it liked it. I picked up this book on recommendation from Tyler Cowen's writing. Really important subject matter, reanimated for the 21st century and given new urgency.

Oddly, self-control and self-discipline don't seem more popular as virtues to explore and rehabilitate for the 21st century. Akst's book begins the conversation at least. Akst draws upon fantastic sources literary, scientific, philosophical, personal , but seems to struggle to pull it all together in a coherent non-fiction narrative in the wa I picked up this book on recommendation from Tyler Cowen's writing.

Akst draws upon fantastic sources literary, scientific, philosophical, personal , but seems to struggle to pull it all together in a coherent non-fiction narrative in the way a Malcolm Gladwell might. Thus, the book is an uneven read from chapter-to-chapter and from section-to-section within chapters. Many morsels, but not a meal! Jan 14, Erin rated it really liked it Shelves: This book is an exploration of the concept of self-control from all angles.


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Daniel Akst discusses the definition of self-control, pulls in the thoughts of philosophers on the subject from ancient Greece to the modern day, and looks at recent neuroscience. He looks at current issues such as addictions, the increase in obesity in America, and the role of government in individuals' lives. He maintains a well-rounded view of the topic through most of the book, waiting until the last few chapters to This book is an exploration of the concept of self-control from all angles.

We Have Met the Enemy: Self-Control in an Age of Excess

He maintains a well-rounded view of the topic through most of the book, waiting until the last few chapters to give his recommendations about how people and society should support individuals' abilities to follow through on their stated goals. Akst's humor sometimes a bit contrived infuses the writing from the first paragraph. He assumes his readers are well-read, peppering the book with references to history, philosophy, literature, and pop culture alike.

Within this framework, he walks readers through the central theme of self-control from the basics through the complexities of philosophy and brain research without leaving them stranded along the way. I found the book thought-provoking and engaging, and even jotted down a few tips to help fortify myself against temptation the next time it presents itself.


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I received a copy of this book for free through the GoodReads First Reads program. Feb 16, May-Ling rated it it was ok Shelves: Jan 06, Owen rated it it was ok Shelves: I'm finally finished with this book. It was definitely a slow read for me, although parts of it were well written, educational and even entertaining.

The author advocates self-control but doesn't seem to have control of his argument.

I think it would benefit from some additional editing. The middle just really slowed down and I had to motivate myself to keep reading. Finally, I wish the author would have spent more time on how to improve self control. After reading pages and pages on the history of self control,I felt that I deserved a little more in the form of a takeaway to a I'm finally finished with this book. After reading pages and pages on the history of self control,I felt that I deserved a little more in the form of a takeaway to apply.

Lastly,and this is so nitpicky that it even makes ME laugh, the first "blurb" on the back cover really irritated me.

It says something to the effect of "You wouldn't be able to put this book down" instead of "You WON'T be able to put this book down. Or maybe that's just me being persnickety. May 19, Luise rated it it was amazing.

We Have Met the Enemy: Self-control in an Age of Excess - Daniel Akst - Google Книги

Akst views all aspects of modern life and society through the lens of self-control - a surprisingly englightening and all-encompassing approach! In his non-preachy, unpretentious, admirably balanced style he draws on an impressive range of references from classical literature, philosophy, history, economics, science, psychology, religion, to popular culture. Als Akst views all aspects of modern life and society through the lens of self-control - a surprisingly englightening and all-encompassing approach!

Also liked his self-deprecating humour throughout. Aug 09, Ron rated it liked it. Well-written, but the material has all been covered elsewhere. See my review for Switch by Chip and Dan Heath, for example. The one good addition this had was its chapter on how the ancient Greeks were concerned with these issues. Again, though, if you've read any of the classics Homer, Aristotle, etc then this isn't so new either. But if you haven't read anything on the subject yet, this would be a decent introduction to the issues of self-control and behavior change.

Though Switch would be b Well-written, but the material has all been covered elsewhere. Though Switch would be better. Jan 04, Jody rated it it was ok. I thought this was a self-help type books with tips on how to control your impluses; but it was not. There were many references as to how and why we do things in excess and lots of examples of this happening throughout history.

Parts of the book were quite interesting; but again it was just stating why this is happening and not giving any input as to how to control yourself. If you are looking for a self-help book, pass this one up. But if you are interested in historical references and why thing I thought this was a self-help type books with tips on how to control your impluses; but it was not.