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We Have Met the Enemy: Self-Control in an Age of Excess
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We Have Met the Enemy: Self-Control in an Age of Excess

3.46  ·  Rating Details  ·  276 Ratings  ·  68 Reviews
An intelligent and irreverent investigation into the age-old problem of self-control finds that, in the modern world, solving it is the most important thing we can do.

More calories, sex, and intoxicants are more readily and privately available than at any time in memory. Pornography and gambling are now instantly and anonymously accessible to anyone with an Internet- co
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published January 6th 2011 by Penguin Press (first published 2011)
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Jan 15, 2011 Carly rated it liked it
We Have Met the Enemy is a rather in-depth analysis of the excesses in our modern society and how we got to this point. I was intrigued by this book as soon as I heard about it. For the most part, this was an interesting book, but it was a little dry at times. The in-depth study of our excessive lifestyle was much more than I was expecting. There was a great deal of interesting information, but at the same time there was a bit too much and I found myself skimming parts to get to the more interes ...more
Sep 02, 2011 Rachael rated it really liked it
A fun, accessible book Akst does a fine job of exploring the issue of agency in a world of plenty. He argues that the fact that we face these choices is a positive thing, it means that we have enough security and prosperity to worry about getting fat, however the greatest threat to our own wellbeing has become our ability to control ourselves. No longer will scarcity reign us in, for the first time in history we have to depend on the strength of our will alone to stay in shape, not to cheat, and ...more
Feb 03, 2011 Krista rated it liked it
I was intrigued by the subtitle of this book: Self-Control in an Age of Excess and entered to win it from Goodreads First Reads. Although I just finished it today, I have been thinking about how I would review this all week. I will begin by saying that I hate the cover of this book. It is ridiculous. But I am glad that I opened the book and read it. I didn't know what to expect but assumed that it would probably be a fatphobic diatribe. I was impressed that it was actually more of an academic ev ...more
Skylar Burris
Nov 04, 2013 Skylar Burris rated it liked it
Shelves: politics, sociology
Technological development and “weapons of mass consumption,” says Akst, have made it too easy for us to overindulge in everything from food, sex, and drugs to credit, television, and the internet. We have become a nation of Madame Bovarys, over-indulgent, bored, listless, and killing ourselves. For the full review, click here.
Jun 25, 2012 Les rated it it was ok
Because it seems appropriate to have at least 6 "currently reading" books fired up while reading about excess. I'm hoping to learn how to lose a good 500 pounds, stop having all the sex, and reign in my gambling habit. Wish me luck. After reading a few pages of this, maybe I am not all that excessive in my habits.
Jan 30, 2011 Tanya rated it really liked it
I just won this book through Goodreads (yes, sisters, I reviewed the silly highland hunk book last night, and won this one hours later), and it sounds like a great one to start off the year. It's subtitled "Self Control in the Age of Excess" and will fit right in with some of my New Year's Resolutions!

This one gets a 3 1/2 from me, but I'm rounding up to counter some early low ratings by people who probably weren't the intended audience of this book. I, as others probably did, initially thought
David Glasgow
Nov 29, 2011 David Glasgow rated it it was amazing
Akst begins this book by complaining about what an arduous task it is to write a book.

This may seem a poor welcome for one's "reader-clients," but it works. Before I'd turned the first page I recognized already that We Have Met the Enemy would not only require me to look unflinchingly at the dread and shame that so often accompany self-improvement efforts, but also would (through humor and self-deprecating sympathy) help me to reframe these efforts (weight management, long-term projects, and eve
Feb 09, 2011 Jennifer rated it liked it
A goodreads FIrst reads win! The book "We Have Met the Enemy... Self Control in an Age of Excess" was an interesting study.
The author keeps the reader interested with all sorts of fascinating tales of out-of-control stories that range in finance, weight gain, time, etc. He even explains that he is not exempt. From the opening about the size weight scales are being made for people... and the fact that in their showroom is a display of doughnuts for customers... to help them browse! From that po
May 17, 2011 Janet rated it it was amazing
I was very surprised that I ended up giving this book five stars, especially since there were a couple of sections I skimmed, but overall it was both fun and insightful.

While not denying the physical/chemical realities of addiction and disease, never stooping to preachiness or being holiner-than-thou, Askt makes a strong case for the lack of self control as one of the deadliest conditions of modern life.

His hero is Odysseus, who - being both self-aware and cognizant of the threats in his envir
Jul 25, 2011 Jadewolf rated it really liked it
A very interesting read that explores the question of how much responsibility should we take for our actions in an age of excess!

I found the author's writing style a little different than what I'm used to and I was tripping over & misreading sentences throughout the book. Not an addictive page turner, but once I read the entire book, I was thinking about different topics and arguments from it every day!

I found the author explored the different viewpoints about self-discipline well, with a li
Jan 20, 2011 Faith rated it it was ok

I won this book as a Goodreads giveaway.

I tried to like this, but I really just can't understand why I would want to read an entire book about lack of self control in modern society and how our society has changed in a bad way.

It was actually quite depressing, and I couldn't even finish it.

To be fair, this is not my kind of book and not something I would have picked up had I not received it as a giveaway book.
Feb 23, 2011 May-Ling rated it it was ok
Shelves: saving-the-world
i just could not finish this book. i read the first 75 or so pages and closed it disappointed. then, i picked it up again and read the last 3 chapters, just in case there were some details about self-control i was hoping for. that is where more information was, but it didn't make the book worthwhile for me.

we have met the enemy had so much promise. the author is funny and makes a lot of parallels to his own life. the introduction pulled me in instantly, but when i was hoping for examples and sto
Feb 04, 2011 Erin rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
This book is an exploration of the concept of self-control from all angles. Daniel Akst discusses the definition of self-control, pulls in the thoughts of philosophers on the subject from ancient Greece to the modern day, and looks at recent neuroscience. He looks at current issues such as addictions, the increase in obesity in America, and the role of government in individuals' lives. He maintains a well-rounded view of the topic through most of the book, waiting until the last few chapters to ...more
In this unique, exploratory text, author Daniel Akst addresses the issue of self control in a modern world obessed with immediate gratification. Not only are we inept at protecting ourselves from these ‘enemies,’ speculates Akst, but we are also tempted by them more and more frequently. Ours is a society rich not only in capital, but also in self indulgence.

My Thoughts:
Self-control, or lack thereof, is a profound issue that we all endure on a day-to-day basis. In fact, it has the been
May 12, 2011 Owen rated it it was ok
I'm finally finished with this book. It was definitely a slow read for me, although parts of it were well written, educational and even entertaining. I think it would benefit from some additional editing. The middle just really slowed down and I had to motivate myself to keep reading. Finally, I wish the author would have spent more time on how to improve self control. After reading pages and pages on the history of self control,I felt that I deserved a little more in the form of a takeaway to a ...more
Shaka Mitchell
Nov 18, 2011 Shaka Mitchell rated it liked it
Akst does a nice job giving a history of how our thoughts on self-control (addiction, etc.) have evolved over time. Interesting to get a better picture of the numerous experiments and scientific endeavors that try to get at our decision-making even and especially when those decisions run counter to our stated goals or intentions. I was disappointed in that Akst doesn't give a particularly powerful hypothesis as to a way forward. Other than using some pre-commitment strategies and realizing the n ...more
May 19, 2011 Luise rated it it was amazing
Akst views all aspects of modern life and society through the lens of self-control - a surprisingly englightening and all-encompassing approach! In his non-preachy, unpretentious, admirably balanced style he draws on an impressive range of references from classical literature, philosophy, history, economics, science, psychology, religion, to popular culture. Especially well handled: his thought-provoking research into our concept of "free will" and the changes it underwent in recent history. Als ...more
Jan 26, 2011 Jody rated it it was ok
I thought this was a self-help type books with tips on how to control your impluses; but it was not. There were many references as to how and why we do things in excess and lots of examples of this happening throughout history. Parts of the book were quite interesting; but again it was just stating why this is happening and not giving any input as to how to control yourself.

If you are looking for a self-help book, pass this one up. But if you are interested in historical references and why thing
May 07, 2011 Chazzle rated it really liked it
At one point, I was going to give this book 5 stars, believe it or not. But some of the chapters are a little too long and technical for my tastes, and I would have been better off skipping them. But, overall, a really interesting look at our self-control problems (overweight, over-drinking, smoking, gambling, in short, everything that makes life worth living).

Intelligently written. Backed up by scientific research, as described in the book. With the exception of some chapters, entertainingly w
Aug 10, 2011 Ron rated it liked it
Well-written, but the material has all been covered elsewhere. See my review for Switch by Chip and Dan Heath, for example. The one good addition this had was its chapter on how the ancient Greeks were concerned with these issues. Again, though, if you've read any of the classics (Homer, Aristotle, etc) then this isn't so new either. But if you haven't read anything on the subject yet, this would be a decent introduction to the issues of self-control and behavior change. Though Switch would be b ...more
Kate Lawrence
An entire book on the subject of self-control--who'd have known there was that much to say? Even though it covers the history of how self-control has been viewed since the Greek philosophers, it maintains an engaging, non-scholarly tone. I skimmed and skipped to the chapters I found most interesting. If you're intrigued by the psychology of prudent moderation vs. passionate excess, and how contemporary American society seems to favor the latter, you might want to take a look at it.
Jul 21, 2011 rebekah rated it really liked it
I became obsessed with this book. I have no self control, never have. And now I have various scientific and psychological theories to back up the why. Fascinating. My will power is weak to begin with and living in this modern age of temptation it cannot withstand the onslaught! IT CRUMBLES! Akst gives you a few laughs as well and some dead on analogies and of course food for thought. But don't eat it all at once. But you will. Because you can't control yourself.
May 17, 2011 Bridget rated it really liked it
Part philosophical treatise on agency (from Aristotle to B.F. Skinner and beyond), part exposition on the excess of modernity (yep, we're fat, out of control, and encourage excess), part self-help book on the subject of getting a freaking grip. It raises lots of interesting questions if you like this sort of thing. I kind of wish that he'd brought it all together a bit better at the end. But I liked it.
Jan 27, 2011 Kathleen rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2011
The more I think about this book, the less I like it. Too many tangents, too casual a tone, and no substantive suggestions for deep-seated changes to enhance self-control in modern society. And though Akst smugly claims to have few problems with self-control, he clearly cannot refrain from mentioning Odysseus every five pages.
Mar 20, 2011 Beth rated it really liked it
Informative, engaging, and practical all at once. This book provides insight into why people do the things they do and, more importantly, why I do the things I do. This was entertaining reading, but also a good step in my own internal battle against procrastination.
Marie Hyde
Jun 08, 2011 Marie Hyde rated it liked it
I really enjoyed what I read of this book. It is an eye opening look at the lifestyle of excess we have in our country. About 2/3 of the way through, I started skimming. It started to seem like a lot of the same.
Nathaniel Irvin
Sep 29, 2011 Nathaniel Irvin rated it liked it
Recommends it for: folks who like philosophy
Very wordy, very philosophical. Offers little in the way of practical advice, just kinda rambles. A fun enough read but I was definitely skimming by end.
Feb 27, 2011 Henry rated it it was amazing
A wonderfully-written and well-researched look at a topic that doesn't get nearly enough attention. Bravo.
Based on the description of this book, I could REALLY use a copy of this, as soon as possible!!!
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A native New Yorker, Daniel Akst is a well-known journalist who has worked at the LA Times and Wall Street Journal and now writes a monthly column in the Sunday New York Times. He also writes regularly for the Wall Street Journal culture pages, and has appeared in many other publications, including American Heritage, the Boston Globe, the Christian Science Monitor, Civilization, Technology Review, ...more
More about Daniel Akst...

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“Senso di colpa e vergogna sono considerati gemelli, ma, dei due, il fratello buono è il primo. E lo è perché si concentra sulle nostre azioni, per le quali possiamo provare rimorso e rimpianto. Chi si sente in colpa per qualcosa che ha commesso prova il desiderio di scusarsi o comunque di cancellare o correggere il gesto che gli ha ispirato quei sentimenti.

La vergogna, invece, non è provocata dalle nostre azioni, ma da ciò che siamo. Chi si vergogna si sente indegno: non prova orrore per quello ha fatto, ma per se stesso. Il senso di colpa chiede di modificare un comportamento, la vergogna chiede di modificare una parte del nostro Io. La «vergogna che soffoca l’anima», come la definì Coleridge, è una cosa davvero triste: è più dolorosa della colpa e chi ne soffre ha difficoltà a parlarne. Significa sentirsi meschino, inferiore e disapprovato dagli altri. Il senso di colpa vuol fare ammenda, la vergogna vuol nascondersi.”
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