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Assholes: A Theory

3.19 of 5 stars 3.19  ·  rating details  ·  1,400 ratings  ·  239 reviews
In the spirit of the mega-selling On Bullshit, philosopher Aaron James presents a theory of the asshole that is both intellectually provocative and existentially necessary.

What does it mean for someone to be an asshole? The answer is not obvious, despite the fact that we are often personally stuck dealing with people for whom there is no better name. Try as we might to avo
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ebook, 240 pages
Published October 30th 2012 by Anchor (first published 2012)
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Pam Susi It describes general approaches - resistance or resignation and more or less how to choose your battles. Generally speaking, the author says assholes…moreIt describes general approaches - resistance or resignation and more or less how to choose your battles. Generally speaking, the author says assholes don't often change their behavior, so it's frustrating and futile to expect otherwise regardless of our response. At the same time, it's important at times to not allow them to treat you with disrespect (mostly to preserve your own self respect regardless how it impacts their behavior or attitudes). But in the end, an asshole is an asshole is an.... so don't take it personally.(less)
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Community Reviews

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Joi Reece
I must admit that this is another book that caught my eye simply due to the title. Be warned- it is what it appears to be- a book about assholes, so the title can be taken literally. If you are an asshole or have ever been called one- to your face or behind your back- you may or may not be ready for this book. For those who know an asshole or two, after reading this book, the list will grow. Either way, keep reading my review.

Up until reading this book, I don’t think I completely understood the
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Bill  Kerwin

I should have listened to my Goodreads friend Jon, who told me that this book was not nearly as funny or entertaining as it promised to be.

It is difficult at times to tell if "Assholes" is a parody of a dry, prolix, academic treatise, or just a treatise about assholes written in a dry, prolix, academic style. The final result is much the same. I won't deny there are a few worthwhile pages here--the definition of "asshole," for example, is a precise one that articulates the distinction between bo
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Ben Labe
While the title might mislead prospective readers to assume that "Assholes: A Theory" offers either a lighthearted assortment of anti-asshole yet thoroughly assholish quips or an amoral guidebook in the manner of Machiavelli's "The Prince," what this book really delivers is a complete account of the psychology, morality, and social bearing of the common asshole.

James is a serious philosopher, and "Assholes" is a serious piece of ethics. James handles the asshole phenomenon from every angle. The
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VampireNovelFan
2.5 stars.

The description of this book is a bit misleading. I was expecting a lighter yet informative read. There were some moments where I enjoyed it and chuckled quite a bit, but I wish there was more material to relate to for myself.

I liked the descriptions of the types of assholes. While reading it, I found myself thinking of all of the ones in my life, appropriately categorizing them along the way.

The book would break off into a lot of lengthy political tangents, which I didn't really car
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Judy
Should I be concerned that one of my favorite staff members at my local library grabbed me and said, "Judy, we just got in a book that I think you should read."? Fingers crossed that she wasn't making a value judgment or statement. I think that she thought I would be interested. And I was. Aaron James received his PhD from Harvard and is a professor of philosophy at the University of California--Irvine and he takes a philosophical approach in dealing with the subject of assholes. James points ou ...more
Karl
This was very much a book by a writer who's fairly sure he's funny. It's actually pretty dry.

The opening chapters, developing a taxonomy of assholes, are occasionally amusing. I blew air out of my nose slightly harder than normal a few times, I think I smirked once or twice. His general conception of the asshole is one who, against all logic and reason, considers themselves entitled to more than everyone else. Let me cut in; let me have that parking space; let me have control over the board; don
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Jon
I wanted to like this book, since I certainly agree with it; and my wife read it ahead of me, laughing long and often. I found it a good deal less funny, but I appreciated what I thought was a pretense of serious philosophical discussion ironically applied to a relatively trivial subject. But it turned out not to be a pretense, nor was it ironic. It was a careful (far too careful for me) analysis of exactly what an asshole is, how he (almost always a he) came to be what he is, what he does to so ...more
Lisa Roney
I found this book helpful in my continuing effort to understand why my place of employment is so rife with a-holes. But, as several other reviewers point out, there are a couple of problems with the book. First, James feels the need to do the philosopher thing (no surprise--he's a philosopher), that is, he focuses on logical nuances and possible counter-arguments and counter-explanations, which can get tedious at times. Also, as James notes, the book is not a practical advice book about how to d ...more
Christie Bane
Whew! I am so glad I finally finished this book.

With the title it has, and with its small size and large print, this book should have taken me a couple hours. But, because it was so boring, it took me four days instead!

I was looking for funny and useful suggestions for dealing with assholes, and instead I got a boring academic discussion on the various aspects of assholery. Chapters on "asshole management", which should have been fun to read, were dull and tedious. At times this guy's assessmen
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Timothy McNeil
Dec 04, 2012 Timothy McNeil rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Timothy by: Amazon.com
While Aaron James' Assholes: A Theory may be (to use his own terminology) "pop philosophy", it is not an unserious work. There is an assumption that the reader has some familiarity with moral theories, but James does what he can to address less introductory matters -- such as the argument against the possibility of 'free will' (and now suffering through Tamler Sommers' A Very Bad Wizard has paid off) -- in a manner that allows the average reader to follow the tract of the book.

It is not mean
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Rachel
“If one is special on one’s birthday, the asshole’s birthday comes every day.”

As one might expect, James begins by defining the term asshole. What is an asshole? According to James, it is someone who has an “entrenched sense of entitlement.” This someone believes himself entitled to special privileges ALL of the time as opposed to the rest of us who only believe ourselves to be entitled to special privileges SOME of the time.

James works his way through this theory with quite a bit of philosophic
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Sharon
This is a tongue and cheek philosophical theory of what makes someone an asshole. James comes up with irritating traits of assholes such as “not hearing someone out” and “reflecting ignorance of crucial facts or lack of concern with what is reasonably acceptable from everyone’s point of view and actively reasoning from his sense of entitlement rather than from an independent understanding of what the moral law requires”. After defining an asshole he creates categories such as the Boorish Asshole ...more
Sean Watson
Went from a taxonomy, to a social commentary against conservative America and capitalism, and then somewhat of a self-help book, then finally finished off nicely with societal implications and philosophical relevance. I thought the book lacked specific examples to validate specific concepts, but was stylish. Nearly everything written in parentheses is A-hole-ish, appearing more like the individuals James speaks against. The content at the end made up for earlier arguments that the difference bet ...more
Rachel
This was just horrible. It started off good...but like most academic ventures that try to appeal to a wide audience and be funny...it completely failed. I couldn't determine if the author was being serious in his philosophic defining of an asshole or if he was being sarcastic throughout...whatever it was...it sucked. It got so longwinded and completely off point that I couldn't even make it through a paragraph without skimming. The main point of this book from my standpoint: this asshole loves t ...more
rachel
Dec 21, 2014 rachel marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Gift to me from my father for my 28th birthday. Thanks, Dad.
Andrew Leon
Assholes, by Aaron James, is a difficult book to walk past and not pick up. With a title like that, it's hard to resist. And I'm sure that it's the title that has made the book a New York Times bestseller. Probably bought as gifts, because, when you see a book called Assholes, you're bound to immediately think of someone who ought to have that book no matter what the book is ultimately about. For me, that person was myself. I mean, here was a book that promised to tell me where assholes come fro ...more
Jessica
I wish everyone would read this book.

It's funny that other reviewers seem equally sure this book is either funny or serious, pop culture or academic. I would say it is quite serious, and we laugh in recognition because the examples are so true.

I studied Ethics in college and this book raises some legitimate philosophical points.
Matt
YUCK! I couldn't make it past the first chapter. Don't waste your time, not funny.
Katie
Incredibly boring. Not witty or clever as I had anticipated.
Kyle Ryan

The problem with “Assholes – A Theory,” by Aaron James is that it’s too dumb to be smart and too academic to be funny. I came into the book with high expectations, mainly based on the title. The thought process went something like “I dislike assholes, but assholes can be funny! A whole book that explains (and presumably lightheartedly pokes fun at) assholes will be a nice holiday read as I sip on eggnog and enjoy a light buzz!” Instead, I plodded through about 200 pages of philosophy-ese to take

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Ken Dowell
Runs the gamut: smug assholes, delusional assholes, corporate assholes, presidential assholes, boorish assholes, etc. The author provides lots of real-life contemporary examples like Donald Trump, Jerry Falwell, Silvio Berlusconi, Keith Olbermann, and Dick Cheney as well as historical assholes like Henry VIII and Pablo Picasso. James' theory is that what distinguishes the true asshole from the mere jerk, schmuck or douche bag is a sense of self entitlement. This sense of self-entitlement blinds ...more
Christopher Litsinger
This is an academic philosophy text written and footnoted with scholarly rigor wrapped up in a funny looking package.
As an academic philosophy text, it is (so far as I am capable of judging) quite good. It offers almost nothing in the way of practical advice. I suppose this is more of a marketing problem than a problem with the book itself, but I suspect that most readers will pick this up looking for solutions and be disappointed.
I especially enjoyed the breakdown of the differences between as
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Seth Kramer
When I picked up this book I turned to the introduction and read a bit. I was entertained and slightly intrigued. Thinking the title was perhaps the selection of a particularly cheeky publisher hoping to juice sales with an eye-catching cover I took a risk and bought it. This was an error; I should have read further. The central premise is to undertake a study in the variety, cause, and implications of a very specifically defined social deviant (the titular assholes). However it is neither funny ...more
Gretchen
I just couldn't get into this book. I was hoping for the asshole management adivce that was promised on the back of the book. Instead endless pages of what an asshole is, the levels of asshole-ness, different types of assholes, who the author thinks is an asshole. I'm really not interested in his opinion of who in pop culture and politics this guy thinks is an asshole. Personally I didn't agree with all the people who are "assholes" he listed and found it to be a turn off. I wasn't looking for a ...more
Liz
Sometimes funny, thought it's written with sincerity. I didn't feel the need to read beyond the first half (got the general idea) but I finished it anyway. I think I have a better view of why some people are assholes and will hopefully stop trying to get them to see reason which will cut down on my own stress. And it's clear to me that sometimes I'm an asshole when I deal with assholes and I think I'll be a little more mindful now.
Matt Roberts
This book is nothing more than an academic who is trying to be edgy. Although scientifically and artfully sound, James bounces from topic to topic with no real substance in between. The worst part of this book is that James himself calls it "philosophy," at much a disgrace.
Vicki
Unfortunately, the idea of this book was better than the book. I was very disappointed with the writing style and hoped there would have been more fun and sarcasm. It was literally treated like a theory....boring!
Carrie
A good read - although definitely a little more on the philosophical text side than the light, easy read side. I thought the second half is the best, particularly where he gives some practical ways of thinking about how to deal with assholes and trolls that do not descend into either a passive and naive response nor an overly aggressive but fruitless one. Also, the section on how capitalism can, if left unchecked, grow assholes that undermine the very principles of capitalism was pretty fascinat ...more
Kim
Cute concept, unfulfilled. I was about to rate this with a 3, but then I referenced it five times yesterday afternoon, so, in this instance, the ends overtake the means. Because I have had several verify intense encounters with the subject matter of this book recently, professionally and otherwise, I had a special impetus to complete it. I don't necessarily agree with author's gender distinctions: gender correlated responses to confrontation are not very consistent occurrences, in my experience. ...more
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“Our theory is simply this: a person counts as an asshole when, and only when, he systematically allows himself to enjoy special advantages in interpersonal relations out of an entrenched sense of entitlement that immunizes him against the complaints of other people.” 2 likes
“Assholes are a given fact of life. They are a fact of life we must somehow make peace with if we are to be at peace with life itself.” 2 likes
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