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The Social Animal: A Story of How Success Happens [Format Kindle]

David Brooks

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chapter 1

Decision Making

After the boom and bust, after the go-go frenzy and the Wall Street meltdown, the Composure Class rose once again to the fore. The people in this group hadn't made their money through hedge-fund wizardry or by some big financial score. They'd earned it by climbing the meritocratic ladder of success. They'd made good grades in school, established solid social connections, joined quality companies, medical practices, and firms. Wealth had just settled down upon them gradually like a gentle snow.

You'd see a paragon of the Composure Class lunching al fresco at some shaded bistro in Aspen or Jackson Hole. He's just back from China and stopping by for a corporate board meeting on his way to a five- hundred-mile bike-a-thon to support the fight against lactose intolerance. He is asexually handsome, with a little less body fat than Leonardo's David, and hair so lush and luxuriously wavy that, if you saw him in L.A., you'd ask, "Who's that handsome guy with George Clooney?" As he crosses his legs you observe that they are immeasurably long and slender. He doesn't really have thighs. Each leg is just one elegant calf on top of another.

His voice is like someone walking in socks on a Persian carpet-so calm and composed, he makes Barack Obama sound like Lenny Bruce. He met his wife at the Clinton Global Initiative. They happened to be wearing the same Doctors Without Borders support bracelets and quickly discovered they had the same yoga instructor and their Fulbright Scholarships came only two years apart. They are a wonderfully matched pair, with the only real tension between them involving their workout routines. For some reason, today's high- prestige men do a lot of running and biking and only work on the muscles in the lower half of their bodies. High-status women, on the other hand, pay ferocious attention to their torsos, biceps, and forearms so they can wear sleeveless dresses all summer and crush rocks into pebbles with their bare hands.

So Mr. Casual Elegance married Ms. Sculpted Beauty in a ceremony officiated by Bill and Melinda Gates, and they produced three wonderful children: Effortless Brilliance, Global Compassion, and Artistically Gifted. Like most upper- and upper-middle-class children, these kids are really good at obscure sports. Centuries ago, members of the educated class discovered that they could no longer compete in football, baseball, and basketball, so they stole lacrosse from the American Indians to give them something to dominate.

The kids all excelled at homogenous and proudly progressive private high schools, carefully spending their summers interning at German science labs. Junior year, their parents sat them down and solemnly informed them that they were now old enough to start reading The Economist. They went off to selective colleges with good sports teams, like Duke and Stanford, and then they launched careers that would reflect well on their parents-for example by becoming chief economist at the World Bank after a satisfying few years with the Joffrey Ballet.

Members of the Composure Class spend much of their adult lives going into rooms and making everybody else feel inferior. This effect is only magnified by the fact that they are sincere, modest, and nice. Nothing gives them greater pleasure than inviting you out to their weekend place. This involves meeting them Friday afternoon at some private airport. They arrive with their belongings in a tote bag because when you have your own plane you don't need luggage that actually closes.

It's best to tuck away a few granola bars if you go on one of these jaunts because the sumptuary code of this new gentry means that they will semi-starve you all weekend. This code involves lavish spending on durables and spartan spending on consumables. They'll give you a ride on a multimillion-dollar Gulfstream 5, and serve a naked turkey slice sandwich on stale bread from the Safeway. They will have a nine- bedroom weekend mansion, but they brag that the furniture is from Ikea, and on Saturday they'll offer you one of those Hunger Strike Lunches-four lettuce shards and three grams of tuna salad-because they think everybody eats as healthily as they do.

It has become fashionable in these circles to have dogs a third as tall as the ceiling heights, so members of the Composure Class have these gigantic bearlike hounds named after Jane Austen characters. The dogs are crossbreeds between Saint Bernards and velociraptors, and they will gently lay their giant muzzles on tabletops or Range Rover roofs, whichever is higher. The weekend itself will consist of long bouts of strenuous activity interrupted by short surveys of the global economic situation and bright stories about their closest friends-Rupert, Warren, Colin, Sergey, Bono, and the Dalai Lama. In the evenings they will traipse down to a resort community for ice cream and a stroll. Spontaneous applause may erupt on the sidewalks as they parade their immaculate selves down the avenues, licking their interesting gelatos. People will actually choose to vacation in these places just to bathe in the aura of human perfection.

The Meeting

It was in one of those precincts that, one summer's day, a man and a woman met for the first time. These young people, in their late twenties, would go on to be the parents of Harold, one of the heroes of this story. And the first thing you should know about these soon- to-be parents is that they were both good-hearted, but sort of shallow-even though their son would go on to be intellectually ambitious and sort of profound. They had been drawn to this resort community by the gravitational pull of Composure Class success, which they someday hoped to join. They were staying in group homes with other aspiring young professionals, and a blind lunch date had been arranged by a mutual friend.

Their names were Rob and Julia, and they got their first glimpse of each other in front of a Barnes & Noble. Rob and Julia smiled broadly at each other as they approached, and a deep, primeval process kicked in. Each saw different things. Rob, being a certain sort of man, took in most of what he wanted to know through his eyes. His male Pleistocene ancestors were confronted with the puzzling fact that human females do not exhibit any physical signals when they're ovulating, unlike many other animals. So the early hunters made do with the closest markers of fertility available.

And so Rob looked for the traits almost all heterosexual men look for in a woman. David Buss surveyed over ten thousand people in thirty- seven different societies and found that standards of female beauty are pretty much the same around the globe. Men everywhere value clear skin, full lips, long lustrous hair, symmetrical features, shorter distances between the mouth and chin and between the nose and chin, and a waist-to-hip ratio of about 0.7. A study of painting going back thousands of years found that most of the women depicted had this ratio. Playboy bunnies tend to have this ratio, though their overall fleshiness can change with the fashions. Even the famously thin supermodel Twiggy had exactly a 0.73 percent waist-to-hip ratio.

Rob liked what he saw. He was struck by a vague and alluring sense that Julia carried herself well, for there is nothing that so enhances beauty as self-confidence. He enjoyed the smile that spread across her face, and unconsciously noted that the end of her eyebrows dipped down. The orbicularis oculi muscle, which controls this part of the eyebrow, cannot be consciously controlled, so when the tip of the eyebrow dips, that means the smile is genuine not fake.

Rob registered her overall level of attractiveness, subliminally aware that attractive people generally earn significantly higher incomes.

Rob also liked the curve he instantly discerned under her blouse, and followed its line with an appreciation that went to the core of his being. Somewhere in the back of his brain, he knew that a breast is merely an organ, a mass of skin and fat. And yet, he was incapable of thinking in that way. He went through his days constantly noting their presence around him. The line of a breast on a piece of paper was enough to arrest his attention. The use of the word "boob" was a source of subliminal annoyance to him, because that undignified word did not deserve to be used in connection with so holy a form, and he sensed it was used, mostly by women, to mock his deep fixation.

And of course breasts exist in the form they do precisely to arouse this reaction. There is no other reason human breasts should be so much larger than the breasts of other primates. Apes are flat- chested. Larger human breasts do not produce more milk than smaller ones. They serve no nutritional purpose, but they do serve as signaling devices and set off primitive light shows in the male brain. Men consistently rate women with attractive bodies and unattractive faces more highly than women with attractive faces and unattractive bodies. Nature does not go in for art for art's sake, but it does produce art.

Julia had a much more muted reaction upon seeing her eventual life mate. This is not because she was unimpressed by the indisputable hotness of the man in front of her. Women are sexually attracted to men with larger pupils. Women everywhere prefer men who have symmetrical features and are slightly older, taller, and stronger than they are. By these and other measures, Harold's future father passed the test.

It's just that she was, by nature and upbringing, guarded and slow to trust. She, like 89 percent of all people, did not believe in love at first sight. Moreover, she was compelled to care less about looks than her future husband was. Women, in general, are less visually aroused than men, a trait that has nearly cut the market for pornography in half.

That's because while Pleistocene men could pick their mates on the basis of fertility cues they could discern at a glance, Pleistocene women faced a more vexing problem. Human babies require years to become self-sufficient, and a single woma...

Revue de presse

“Authoritative, impressively learned, and vast in scope.”—Newsweek
“As in [Bobos in Paradise] he shows genius in sketching archetypes and coining phrases. . . . In The Social Animal Mr. Brooks surveys a stunning amount of research and cleverly connects it to everyday experience.”—The Wall Street Journal
“[A] fascinating study of the unconscious mind and its impact on our lives . . . Brooks has done well to draw such vivid attention to the wide implications of the accumulated research on the mind and the triggers of human behaviour.”—The Economist
“An uncommonly brilliant blend of sociology, intellect and allegory.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred revew)
“Provocative and fascinating . . . seeks to do nothing less than revolutionize our notions about how we function and conduct our lives.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Multifaceted, compulsively readable . . . Brooks’s considerable achievement comes in his ability to elevate the unseen aspects of private experience into a vigorous and challenging conversation about what we all share.”—San Francisco Chronicle

From the Hardcover edition.

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 1012 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 449 pages
  • Pagination - ISBN de l'édition imprimée de référence : B0070GGFH4
  • Editeur : Short Books (1 avril 2011)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
  • X-Ray :
  • Word Wise: Non activé
  • Composition améliorée: Non activé
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: n°142.607 dans la Boutique Kindle (Voir le Top 100 dans la Boutique Kindle)

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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 étoiles sur 5  10 commentaires
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Motivation revealed 11 décembre 2013
Par Jane Bruyns - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
The social animal is one of those books about which one needs to say 'should be required reading for every parent and teacher'. Seriously though, in spite of the pedestrian writing style, this book provides some extremely interesting insights into the neuroscience behind ordinary emotions and behaviour. Following the lives of two fictional characters the author reveals "behind the scenes" processes that drive us. It's compelling and informative but not for the faint hearted but worth the effort to understand your nearest and dearest.
2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Persevere 7 septembre 2012
Par MickeyD - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
This book is deceptively interesting (I say deceptively because it is a little bit pompous) and although highly culturally bound for an Australian reading audience is an interesting and palatable romp through social and cultural theory in the twentieth and twenty-first century. It sounds dull when I put it like that and if I read that, I don't know that I would buy this book, but it is worth reading - for the content rather than the deathless prose.

The book uses the life narrative of a childless couple living in the US as a mechanism to discuss cultural and social forces. At times the device is a bit clunky (it is continually written in a 21st century present, if that makes any sense to you) but by the end I did genuinely respond to Harold and Erica's life stories. I might even read a few sections again.

This is sounding more and more like an endorsement. If you read Daniel Gilbert's Stumbling on Happiness and thought it was pretty good then you will probably enjoy The Social Animal. Literature it's not, but it is interesting and it will leave you thinking about things you maybe take for granted.
2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A 'must read' 4 août 2013
Par Stanley Ginsburg CC - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
A must read for anyone even vaguely interested in the 'human condition'. Some very important life lessons here, beautifully and sensitively written.
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 A self improvement book packaged as a novel 18 mars 2014
Par Akis - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
This is an entertaining and easily readable book. You could call it a combination of fiction and non-fiction as the writer often departs from the narration and indulges in interesting facts from the fields of psychology, sociology, and human behaviour in general.
The narration is often entertaining and keeps you hooked.
I would have given the book five stars were it not for the flaws in the narration. The entire lifetime of the characters of the book seems to be set in the year 2010. The narration fails to take into account how changes in society and technology throughout our lives will affect our personal development as we grow older
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Provides a rare insight into what is possible if the human psyche is encouraged to grow 8 septembre 2011
Par Linda Parkinson-Hardman - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle
If you have ever wondered what underpins the work of Malcolm Gladwell and Steven Levitt then this is the book to read. It takes the worlds of psychology, sociology, the unconscious and the conscious, rational and irrational and explains why the rationalist tendencies of the 20th and 21st Century's that are driven by successive Governments and Corporations the world over are doomed to failure in the long run. On the flip side it offers a rare glimpse into the future that is possible for those who are brave enough to consider their unconscious selves as equally important as their conscious. This is not a new age spiritualist tome (of which I read and enjoy many) but a carefully considered insight into how and what makes people develop the personalities they do.

This takes the view that we are all responsible for our own world and our destiny. The consistent removal of responsibility by Government and Corporation has dis-empowered individuals, communities and nations resulting in a situation where people no longer have the core beliefs, values and strengths they once had which acted as brakes upon their behaviour.

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