Something profound and disturbing happened between the 1970s and the present. “The consumer marketplace effectively moved inside the self, and is now inseparable from not only our desires and decisions, but also our very identities.” It is a big statement but Paul Roberts makes a persuasive case that even as the market allows us to instantly gratify our desires through computer technology and easy access to credit, the increasing emphasis on short-term self-interest at the expense of long-term social cohesion is leaving us anxious and insecure. Our response to which is to buy more stuff. This unprecedented power to shape our identities at an individual level, says Roberts, leaves us unable to make sacrifices for the common good. The Impulse Society is a compelling analysis of an unprecedented economic phenomenon and its psychological and social consequences.
Tune in to a conversation about short-termism and the self-centered economy at Google-Cambridge.
With every new technological development and innovation, today’s businesses learn better how to target our desires and passions, how to market their products to the appetites of the populace. We’ve never lived in an age in which targeted advertising can become so entangled in our personal, social, and civic pursuits. Yet we forget—and often ignore—the implications and consequences of this entanglement.
This is why Paul Roberts’ new cover story for The American Scholar is so important. Excerpted from his new book, The Impulse Society: America in the Age of Instant Gratification, Roberts considers the way our economy has enmeshed itself with society, and the consequences this relationship can have on our personal and political lives: Continue reading