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The Impulse Society: America in the Age of Instant Gratification

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  411 ratings  ·  61 reviews
Five years after the Great Recession, we must confront an unhappy truth: a high-tech, high-speed, consumer economy engineered to provide maximum power to individuals is destroying our capacity to move forward as a society. Even as rapidly advancing personal technologies let consumers gratify an ever-broader array of desires, a similar pattern of instant gratification in th ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published September 2nd 2014 by Bloomsbury USA (first published March 4th 2014)
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Dave B.
Nov 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was a great intellectual read that forewarns the reader of the perils found in entertainment based technology along the lines of books such as: “Amusing ourselves to death” by Postman and “The Assault on Reason” by Gore and “The Age of American Unreason” by Jacoby. There are books throughout the recent decades that’ run through the wilderness’ like John the Baptist decrying out society’s fall into mindless decadency driven primarily by the advancement in entertainment based technology. I ag ...more
Neil Fox
Oct 08, 2016 rated it liked it
Some years ago, TIME Magazine declared its Person Of The Year to be YOU. A mirror laminated to its most eagerly-awaited front cover of the year reflected back the image of the individual reader and proclaimed he or she to be the most significant person on the planet that year. One wit famously secured a job after listing under personal achievements on his CV that he had been named TIME's Person Of The Year. TIME's intention, as it laboriously explained in its editorial, was to celebrate the empo ...more
Paul Roberts's book is not so much about the problem with getting what we want, but the destructiveness of focusing all our energy--both individually and as a society--on focusing all our efforts on getting what we want immediately, to the exclusion of the general good. His argument is a compelling one, particularly when he talks about the way business culture and politics have absorbed the habits and patterns of the Impulse Society. The destructiveness, as he points out, can only go on for so l ...more
John Kaufmann
Dec 29, 2014 rated it liked it
This book has a valid premise - that increased personal power of modern society (beginning with cars, proceeding to household appliances and recreations, and accelerated with the advent of digital media) has contributed to, if not caused, an increase in self-centeredness and a deterioration of our public sphere. This is not a wholly new concept; Nisbet and others were writing about this as early as the 1950s and 1960s. However, it is good to see it refreshed, especially in light of the digital r ...more
Sean Goh
Jul 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
I remember myself feeling a general sense of anger reading this book, at how society has turned out, how companies get away with daylight robbery, and how we're only too happy to put up and shut up as long as we get our personalised, designed life. Mildly repetitive at times as he applies the impulse society lens to different arenas (health, politics, etc) but his point is abundantly made. This cannot continue.

A century ago, most economic activity occurred in our outer lives - in the physical
Liz Muñoz Martin
Feb 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book explores how our obsession with myopia, quick returns, and immediate gratification has corrupted our financial system, our politics, and our ability to work together as a community. Although I didn't agree 100% with some of his examples, I definitely feel like this book provided very valuable insight. I feel like I understand the climate of our country a lot better. I strongly recommend this. ...more
Kyaw Zay Yar
Aug 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The impulse society shows the reasons why the world changed from we to I in various sectors. Really Awesome.
Leanne Ellis
Dec 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Some good points, but too repetitive and generalized. A bit too negatively hyperbolic.
Jan 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: social-studies
Quite an inspiring read! We've all heard that people expect everything right away now. Technology has made this possible with instant messaging, overnight delivery, ability to watch a whole series of a tv show on the computer, etc. Roberts ties this to the idea that mankind is actually hard-wired this way. We were originally hunters-gatherers, which did not require planning and waiting like farming. So we are quickly falling back to this. The problem is that this tendency has allowed us as a nat ...more
Jul 01, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I received this book as part of a goodreads giveaway.

This is an interesting topic, the impulse society, about how people have continued to change from a society based system to a new short term, instant, rewards and individualism. The book has been well researched and the author clearly knows his topic, although the book has clearly been written slanted towards the authors opinion he does have valid arguments.

Each chapter, or subchapter, begins by looking at the past, either using stories or in
Gladys Landing-Corretjer
The impulse society: how we have become arrogant, ungrateful, and not able to make commitments

I loved the book because it explains in simple terms the reasons we have become intolerant of differences, unable to make long term commitments, and be absolutely concerned with me, myself, and I by wanting everything now.
As a teacher, I dealt with this situation in the classroom. Creating a community of learners was more difficult in the last 10 years than at the beginning of my career. Working with sc
May 13, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shallow and disappointing book that starts off with great gusto but ends up being another narrow left-liberal rant about how capitalism is destroying everything we as a society cherish. Surely some elements of his arugment are true, but the total lack of objectivity and heavy-handed political tone strip the book of all its argumentative merit.
Feb 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Roberts doesn't pretend that post-WWII America was a complete utopia or that nothing has improved since, but he tracks rather stark and largely negative shifts between then and today; in very broad terms he sees a merging of the self and the marketplace with greater polarization of the population on multiple fronts, coupled with increasing emphasis on short-term gains rather than long-term development, on private rather than public goods, on personality rather than character, on benefits to stoc ...more
Mehran Jalali
The book offered me a radically new perspective on society, the marketplace, and the quest for prosperity and efficiency. I can't say the arguments made me flip my views, but I can now at least see how some people believe in valuing some things which I don't value a lot.

A very large part of the book was focused on the 2008 recession and how the rise of consumer culture, and the finance industry's willingness to exploit weaknesses in consumers' minds can lead to economic disaster. Those parts wer
Keegan Napier
Jul 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
An interesting, thought provoking book. It details well the improvements to society that the pursuit of technological efficiency has brought us, and with more emphasis, the detrimental impacts these same pursuits can and are currently causing when left unchecked by society.

Some of the interesting problems highlighted in this book, for which we must as a society want to discuss to resolve:
- Our political establishments have become too partisan due to a pressure to conform to a particular image or
Mohit Pawnday
Feb 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Extremely well written book,impact full and while focused on USA catches the trends of how we are formatting ourselves to be isolated from our surroundings propelled by the beast of self actualisation.
Roberts refers to the financial crisis of 2008 and how we have refused to change our ways .

The fall of Apple and the lifestyle it promoted is a excellent time for us to read this book and visit the insights.
As one reviewer has said its long on causes and short on solutions but for many recognising
James Richardson
Aug 22, 2019 rated it liked it
Up until the Forever War chapter (which one would think would be about military adventures overseas) the book was spot on. However, the author's politics appear starting in this chapter, and run through the rest of the book, suggesting government solutions, while off-handedly dismissing that the problems he wants government solve, stem from prior government solutions.

So stop reading at Forever War. The drive to personalization creates individuals, and not communities.
Dec 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book took some of my thoughts, added some more thoughts, did the research and put into words my unease with the trajectory of so much in our society here in the USA. Thought provoking and a good read. I highly recommend it.

I would have given it a five but the final chapter seemed a bit abrupt and not as well thought out. I’m not looking for answers on a silver platter but this was Corel Ware. The rest of the book was really well done.
Aug 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I highly recommend this book if you want to make sense of the seemingly nonsensical society we live in now. It’s important to own what has happened to our sense of community and values so we can identify why we have this sense of frustration and the specific steps to move forward. This book presents a very compelling explanation and direction for improving our society. For me, it was a very hopeful and practical message that I needed right now.
Julie Hudson
Nov 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Some very interesting points but written in quite a laborious and repetitive way. eg US spends half of what China does on new fuel tech, 1/4 wouldn't marry someone from different political party compared to 1/20 in the 1970s, how all our short term thinking leads to quick fixes, short term planning, branded politics companies doing buy back shares to boost share price rather than investing into the future. ...more
Nov 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Enjoyed reading this very much. A real eye opener. Very much tapping into the conversations we all have when we get together about what is happening with world and the "I want it now", entitled people we are all constantly running into. Also, over consumerism and 'want' becoming 'need'. Easy to read and understand. Knowledgeable but also entertaining. It has led me to expand my reading material. ...more
Aryo Wasisto
Dec 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nicebooks
After reading this book, I imagined the problems that occur in Indonesian society. The author of this book says that Art is no longer for Art. The Art of impulsive community is the Art of selfishness. I imagine how in my country, people go to the movies and queue for tickets early to show that they have the latest news.
Sep 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Heavy and thorough on background, light and improbable on the solution given current events/elections.
Bree Pearc
Aug 18, 2019 rated it liked it
While I enjoyed reading this book it is written for an American audience which makes it slightly less relevant to an international reader.
Lauren Butler
Jan 05, 2020 rated it liked it
Very good, but time-specific. in 2019, seemed outdated.
Geoff Nielson
May 19, 2020 rated it liked it
Went a different direction than I was interested in going, and turned into a bit of a dry read. Others in the economic/political fields may find it interesting. Made it 90% through and got bored.
Nov 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
"Markets can remain irrational a lot longer than you and I can remain solvent."

This John Maynard Keynes quote is perhaps my favorite line from this incredibly persuasive book. Its central point: that a market and country driven purely by the wants of its millions of consumers will succeed in the long term only if those wants are tempered by support for long-term strategies. The "impulse" to consume and invest purely based on immediate gratification demonstrates the singular problem with the way
Helle Gowan
Aug 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reading Paul Roberts’ book, Impulse Society, I am reminded that even the most environmentally minded of us are consumers. Roberts ties several aspects of our consumerism together nicely: our desire for instance gratification (the “lizard” brain), the move from the connections of individuals with their societies to the disconnect of individuals from society that is all too common especially in the western countries. Finally, Roberts explains both the ineptitude of our political system and what ha ...more
Dec 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
For those who do not understand the current crisis we have in the age of what Daniel Bell called, the 3rd stage of consumerism; then those must still be in a womb of "consuming liberalism"..Author does not use complex data, nor statistics to show the current rotten state we humans are in. Because he has been quoting with many other authors who depicted the very problem of our human beings. It is really not the technology, but the root problem is we are living in an age of "maximizing shareholder ...more
Ivy K
Jan 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
[UPDATED 2018-March-07: Changed rating (down to 4 stars).]

My previous rating was a bit strong. The first one or two chapters were gripping and highly recommended, but later on the book didn't hold my interest quite as much. Still a good book for the topic.
This book receives my highest recommendation. In this book you'll see how and why the characteristic that most defines today's world is instant-gratification. It is well-researched, very interdisciplinary, and the openin
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I'm a journalist and author of three books, most recently, The Impulse Society: America in an Age of Instant Gratification. My work focuses on the evolving relationship between the marketplace and the Self and touches on issues ranging from technology obsessions to the politics of narcissism. Earlier works have explored the energy economy and the food industry. I live with my family in Washington ...more

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41 likes · 25 comments
“We fine-tune our moods with pharmaceuticals and classic rock. Craft our meals around our allergies and ideologies. Customize our bodies with cross training, with ink and metal, with surgery and wearable technologies. We can choose a vehicle to express our hipness or hostility. We can move to a neighborhood that matches our social values, find a news outlet that mirrors our politics, create a social network that “likes” everything we say or post. With each transaction and upgrade, each choice and click, life moves closer to us, and the world becomes our world.” 1 likes
“As Adam Smith argued more than two centuries ago, when individuals freely pursue their own self-interests—presumably, even their most trivial desires—the aggregate effect is an economy that most efficiently and naturally delivers the most benefits to the greatest majority.” 0 likes
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