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We Have Met the Enemy: Self-Control in an…

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

by Daniel Akst

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An excellent examination of self-control, with very interesting background on this issue from a philosphical, psychological and economical perspective. Written so that it is fun to read. ( )
  CarterPJ | Nov 14, 2011 |
If you have not heard of Daniel Akst, you’re likely to become a huge fan after reading We Have Met the Enemy: Self-Control in an Age of Excess.

The “enemy” in We Have Met the Enemy is us and our lack of self-control in a world that is full of temptations. While our ancestors had to exercise their willpower to stay away from a few certain bad habits, our bad habit possibilities have vastly multiplied. We have access to cheap and widely available unhealthy foods, riveting TV shows that keep us glued to the couches, and prior to the economic meltdown, loads of unsecured credit that had us spending money into oblivion. And our bad habits are not just bad economically speaking, they are also deadly. As Akst puts it, “we do ourselves in … slowly and prosaically, jumping to a premature death in a sea of batter-fried shrimp, booze, and bad television, which we watch instead of exercising.”

Akst traces self-control from the Ancient Greeks, to British Victorians to Freud and so on, interspersing opinions on the issue from a variety of individuals who had something to say about the topic. However, We Have Met the Enemy is by no means a finger-pointing diatribe against our excesses. Instead, Akst strives to define the reasons behind the low-supply of self control in today’s age, and cite the social, cultural, religious and other constraints that can help us “behave”.

Akst’s brutally honest exploration of our self-control, or the lack thereof, is as disturbing as it is hilarious. And that is where his genius lies – in his ability to discuss a serious topic with the wit that will have you laughing out loud. We Have Met the Enemy is the first book in a long time that had me pulling out a highlighter in an effort to remember especially cheeky lines and bring them up in conversations later. ( )
  verka6811 | Feb 14, 2011 |
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A witty and wide-ranging investigation of the central problem of our time: how to save ourselves from what we want. This is journalist Akst's irreverent search for answers, delving into overeating, overspending, procrastination, anger, addiction, wayward sexual attraction and most of the other homely transgressions that bedevil us daily in a world of freedom, prosperity and technological empowerment. Akst ransacks history, literature, psychology, philosophy and economics to alarm, teach, empower and, at the very least, entertain. Using self-control as a lens rather than a cudgel, he draws a vivid picture of the many-sided problem of desire--and delivers a blueprint for how we can steer shrewdly toward the wants we most want for ourselves. At stake is not just our health but our humanity, for what could make us more fully human than the ability to set aside impulse when we choose to do so?--From publisher description.… (more)

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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