Wednesday, 02 June 2010

Selfishness: living in an 'impoverished emotional culture' Occasionally you hear arguments defending individualism, and claiming that it is not directly related to issues of exclusion, disengagement or uncivil behaviour. The tide seems very much against these views now though, the bankers and the MPs have seen to that. Here's an item in the Daily Mail, with its squeaky-clean reputation as a stalwart defender of selfless collectivism, reviewing a book called The selfish society by Sue Gerhardt, and folding-in some points from the Catholic Church's Choosing the common good report and the Children's Society's Good childhood inquiry. Focusing on the influence of consumerism, Gerhardt identifies problematic styles of parenting which combine material indulgence with emotional neglect, speaking of 'an impoverished emotional culture'. The Good childhood inquiry emphasised the negative impact of individualism. So are we more selfish, or is it just that the ways our selfishness and selflessness play out have changed - perhaps not unlike the way our connections changed over a few decades from geographical community to social network? We may find out. According to their latest bulletin, ippr is beginning a new programme of work exploring selfishness, in partnership with the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen). 'The work will provide unique analysis, drawing on a comprehensive range of data sets together with new evidence to assess how attitudes and values have changed.' I can't imagine they'll keep the results to themselves.

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