The Myth of Choice: Personal Responsibility in a World of Limits
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

The Myth of Choice: Personal Responsibility in a World of Limits

by
3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  176 ratings  ·  40 reviews
Americans are fixated on the idea of choice. Our political theory is based on the consent of the governed. Our legal system is built upon the argument that people freely make choices and bear responsibility for them. And what slogan could better express the heart of our consumer culture than "Have it your way"?

In this provocative book, Kent Greenfield poses unsettling ques...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published October 11th 2011 by Yale University Press (first published October 1st 2011)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
The Almond Tree by Michelle Cohen CorasantiDark Side by J.M. BarlogThe Orphan Master's Son by Adam JohnsonThe Rook by Daniel O'MalleyThe Why Cafe by John P. Strelecky
Books won on Goodreads
165th out of 310 books — 163 voters
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca SklootIn Cold Blood by Truman CapoteIn the Garden of Beasts by Erik LarsonAngela's Ashes by Frank McCourtCatherine the Great by Robert K. Massie
The Last 10 Nonfiction Books I Read
134th out of 735 books — 144 voters


More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,638)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Kristen
The Myth of Choice: Personal Responsibility in a World of Limits> is a marvelous book. It often confirmed what I'd already thought and sometimes gave me ah-hah! moments, revealing what I hadn't guessed.

Greenfield offers up studies and anecdotes to give shape to what we already know or suspect - for instance, that if you're trying to move $279 food processors off the shelf but people keep buy the cheaper ones, start stocking a $479 food processor. Now the $279 one doesn't look as expensive, a
...more
Virginia
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via the Goodreads First Reads program. (Awesome!)

I get the feeling that this book was born out of the author's frustration with the current state of affairs in politics. A lot of examples that are chosen (ha!) involve the Tea Party, and illustrate how, exactly their rhetoric is wrong. (Not that this is difficult.) This is VERY much a book written by and for Americans. The writing style is easy and conversational, and reminded me...more
Judith
"We have to believe in free will; we have no choice."-----Isaac Bashevis Singer (as quoted in the front of this book) This book was a recommendation of "The Goodreads Team" and I have to say, it was a good selection. It is an interesting and concise look at the myriad of influences on our decision making process. So first you have to decide if we have free will at all; and if we have free will, do we really make independent choices or are we just kidding ourselves.
As the author points out, "on...more
Kaitlin
This is a great read for someone who wants to reflect a bit on the human psyche while still reading something easy to digest. The title of this book makes it sound more severe than it is because the author clearly believes that people have choices - there are just very powerful factors that influence choice, and some situations that are framed as choices really aren't choices at all.

I liked the author's use of sociological studies and historical events to illustrate his points. For me, at least,...more
Vera
Many thanks to the Goodreads First Reads for sending me this book! It's definitely one of the favorite books that I've won.

The Myth of Choice: Personal Responsibility in a World of Limits is much more exciting than the title might suggest. I learned a lot about why we make certain choices, what influences us (brain chemistry for example - something I didn't suspect had anything to do with my choices), and how in certain instances we don't have as much choice as we believed.

What makes this book s...more
Kerry
I'm afraid that this book did not impress me. The author presents some interesting ideas about consumer culture and how we're constantly influenced towards making our own "decisions," but the book itself is not terribly well written. Greenfield injects far too much of himself into the arguments. I would have much preferred to watch him prove his points logically through the use of scientific/academic sources, as opposed to relying upon anecdotes and personal experiences. At times, Greenfield thr...more
Dan
As expected this is an erudite and well thought out examination of how we make decisions and the external and internal influences on those decisions. What was not expected but very much welcomed is that this is an accessible and highly engaging read. Kent intersperses his arguments with many anecdotal stories that help bring clarity to the concepts. This book will appeal to a general audience as well as to those with more academic leanings. There are plenty of notes which can lead to a more inde...more
Deborah
This book is well-researched, easily understandable and very readable.

The subject was primarily about understanding and being aware of what influences and limits our choices. The author is a law professor and he uses laws and cases to explain many of his points. He uses anecdotes, books and movies to illustrate his points. I particularly liked the explanations of the ways our brains and memories trick us into making certain choices.

I'm very happy that I read this book.

I won this on 8/26/11 th...more
Lori Tatar
"The Myth of Choice: Personal Responsibility in a World of Limits" by Kent Greenfield is a very insightful examination of "choice" and our belief system as it revolves around the choices we make, the consequences for our choices, and the sometimes misguided perception that we have a choice at all. Greenfield presents his views very sensibly and supports them with, in most instances, anecdotal evidence, which can be very convincing. This book is definitely worth reading, especially for those who...more
Elizabeth
Oct 07, 2011 Elizabeth added it
Shelves: litarature
I won this book on goodreads and was excited to get started on it. I really like how he explains things and uses his own personal experiances to help you understand the concepts. Everyone should read because it will open your eyes not just about the choices you make but help you understand why other people make the choices they do.
Sara
This is probably my fault for attempting to read this during a busy family weekend, but I found much of the discussion and topics raised to be better addressed in other books I have read. The odd use of photographs as well as the cursory attention paid to some of the issues made this a rather non-compelling read.
Diana Debartlo
An eye-opening, fun, and smart look at the many things that effect and influence the choices we make. Very anecdotal and accessible. This book is a life changer.
Amanda
I've been interested in the ideas of choice and free will for as long as I can remember, coming from both a religious angle (the Presbyterian Church has a predestination doctrine) and a biological (The realization that all we do and are is composed of chemical reactions, which was quickly followed by the thought that, if we're just chemicals, how can we really control which way our chemicals act?).

Clearly, I was a bit of a weird kid.

Prof. Greenfield's book isn't as in depth and, well, long, as I...more
Liz V.
ARC from Goodreads. Therefore, owe apology for not reading promptly after receipt.

Greenfield argues that the supposed free choice in our lives is much more limited than we would like to believe--a premise to which any frustrated educator of the physically or mentally challenged or the poor or rich might agree.

I am disadvantaged as my comments relate to the ARC version, so that what I perceive as an error may have been corrected. Nonetheless, on pp. 56-58, Greenfield talks about Charles Whitman's...more
Heather
There is a cartoon in the middle of the book that shows two fish in a bowl, presumably a father and son. The line underneath states: "You can be anything you want to be--no limits." The main point of the book is that we are free to choose, but only within our own fishbowls, constraints which are made up of context: biology, culture, etc. Power, economics and the free market, and even brain chemistry put strong contraints on our options. A fascinating read.

Some things that stood out for me:

The re...more
Victoria
Disclaimer: I won this book for free in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.

How much choice do we really have when we decide what to buy at our local supermarket? When we are offered a salary? Who bears the responsibility of our foolish decision when we decide not to wear helmets while driving motorcycles? According to Greenfield, we have a lot less influence over the choices we make then we believe. Some factors discussed in the book are obvious, such as marketing strategies appealing to our visua...more
Christina Hall
Kent Greenfield's "The Myth of Choice" is less an indictment of the belief in the freedom of choice than a plea for empathy and compassion. Greenfield's argument has a clearly liberal slant and seems to be geared toward shushing the Herman Cains of the world. You know, that guy that's pretending to run for president that said that if you aren't rich you should blame yourself as a response to the Occupy Wallstreet protest.
Anyway, he does raise some interesting points. For example, to what extent...more
Lara
I picked up this book because I am interested in issues of government and institutional paternalism, and the dichotomy of personal responsibility. It is well structured and goes into the assumptions we make and their internal inconsistencies when judging people and their behavior. He discusses not just the continuum that exists of choice, and when a choice is no real choice at all, as well as the influence of various external factors on our ability to make good choices. These include the role of...more
Candace Sharp
I'd like to start off by saying I'm a business major in college. So as I was reading this I was in classes like Business Law. Now the book; I LOVED this book it was very eye opening to how choice is viewed and how it has been tested. The book to a look at choice through the emotional side, the law said, and the psychological side. Some of the things that are mentioned in this book I already knew about. It uses real scenarios that have happen and explains the outcome. For me it was a very fun rea...more
Eva
I won this book as a first read through goodreads giveaways. I am not quite through it all but haveread enough to rewiew it. I was interested in this book because I thought it might help me understand the employees I have under me a little better. This is a book that does make you a second look at why people make the choices that do. From readind this book I do try to think of the reasoning behind the choices. I do not agree with everything that I have read, however it is a book about choices an...more
Camille
Great book, very much in that Malcolm Gladwell pop social studies vein. Weighty enough to make you feel smart reading it, but well-written enough to be a thought-provoking but easy and enjoyable read. I really like Greenfield's style and look forward to reading more from him. I could see how this is sort of a preaching to the choir liberal tome and wouldn't change anyone's mind but even in its liberalness it gave me a lot to ponder and was more open-ended than one would expect. Finally, I apprec...more
Mike
To say that we are conscious individuals, says the neuroscience professor in Tom Wolfe’s I Am Charlotte Simmons, is to say that we are little rocks flying though the air, little rocks which achieve consciousness in midflight. But, considering our trajectory and velocity have already been set by forces beyond our control, a lot of good consciousness does us. The Myth of Choice explores those forces —biological, psychological, cultural, legal, et al—that take the freedom out of free choice. Had I...more
Alla  Watson
Many thanks for Goodreads First Reads for sending me this book!

I was really backed up on my reading, but finally got a chance to read/review and I wasn't disappointed!

Not an easy topic to present in an engaging, witty, smart way. Yet this book delivered just that, giving plenty of examples, anecdotes, comparisons for the readers to ponder. Do we really have as much choice as we believe? Read it - and learn that even those of us who wear Freedom proudly on our sleeves are sometimes wearing nothin...more
Cyndie
This book has something unique to offer amidst the plethora of other books of choice out there.

Not only does it provide a comprehensive review of the relevant research on how we choose and what influences those choices, but he takes it a step further to help us think about how this should change how we think and treat those around us.

Talks about what we can do to make it easier for ourselves to make responsible choices and be more understanding of why others make the choices they do.
Adam Winkler
Terrific, engaging book that will make you think differently about choice and personal responsibility. Using scientific studies and the latest research from psychology, economics, and other fields, Greenfield gives you the tools to make better decisions -- and the tools to criticize and understand the political and legal debates about personal responsibility. Marks the rise of an important new public intellectual.
Bill Stepien
I can't recommend this book enough, especially for people that seek to understand and like to discuss moral/ethical concepts. Greenfield does a great job of analyzing influences on our decision-making and unpacking what 'personal responsibility' means. While these subjects require some cognitive heavy lifting, he lays them out very accessibly and leads you to them by way of a friendly conversation. Great stuff.
L
I received this book from Goodreads First Reads. I was disappointed with the plethora of anecdotal evidence, as opposed to actual facts and studies. It seemed that the author wanted only to talk about his life and list quotable quotes from various books he's read. Thank goodness I realized I had the choice to put this book down before it took up any more of my life.
Brittney
I was assigned this book since the author was my Constitutional Law professor. Despite my initial reservations, I actually really enjoyed the book. Although the theme has been done before, the personal anecdotes really did make the book a great and easy read. Now, my grade for this class hasn't come out yet, so I may be modifying this later....
Dave
My favorite book of 2011. Greenfield encourages empathy, consideration of the influence of context on decision-making (by ourselves and others), and developing better choice systems on the micro and macro levels. He frames all of this in his own personal context--wanting to encourage his infant daughter to make better choices in her lifetime.
Bob
Greenfield makes an excellent case for questioning our preconceptions about personal responsibility and the issue of choice. He points out how often such preconceptions are used to justify decisions both personal and political and how we can begin to change the way we think about such typically American values in a practical way.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 54 55 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
What's new? 1 5 Oct 11, 2011 05:18AM  
  • Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America
  • Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change
  • What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite
  • Signing Their Rights Away
  • Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World
  • Brain Bugs: How the Brain's Flaws Shape Our Lives
  • Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection
  • Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens our Future
  • Fear of Falling: The Inner Life of the Middle Class
  • Brain Candy: Science, Paradoxes, Puzzles, Logic, and Illogic to Nourish Your Neurons
  • The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You
  • The Compass of Pleasure: How Our Brains Make Fatty Foods, Orgasm, Exercise, Marijuana, Generosity, Vodka, Learning, and Gambling Feel So Good
  • The Man Who Lied to His Laptop: What We Can Learn about Ourselves from Our Machines
  • Believing Bullshit: How Not to Get Sucked into an Intellectual Black Hole
  • On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You're Not
  • Why We Make Mistakes: How We Look Without Seeing, Forget Things in Seconds, and Are All Pretty Sure We Are Way Above Average
  • Comfortably Numb: How Psychiatry Is Medicating a Nation
  • The Great Starvation Experiment: The Heroic Men Who Starved so That Millions Could Live
734775
Kent Greenfield is Professor of Law and Law Fund Research Scholar at Boston College Law School, where he teaches and writes in the areas of business law, constitutional law, decision making theory, legal theory, and economic analysis of law. He is the former Chair of the Section on Business Associations of the American Association of Law Schools, and a former clerk to Justice David Souter on the U...more
More about Kent Greenfield...
The Failure of Corporate Law: Fundamental Flaws and Progressive Possibilities The Organization of Ground Combat Troops

Share This Book