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The Pursuit of Attention: Power and Ego in Everyday Life
by Charles Derber (Goodreads Author)
"Enough about me," goes the old saying, "what about you? What do you think about me?" Hence the pursuit of attention is alive and well. Even the Oxford English Dictionary reveals a modern coinage to reflect the chase in our technological age: "ego-surfing"--searching the Internet for occurrences of your own name. What is the cause of this obsessive need for others' recogni ...more
Paperback, 160 pages
Published April 1st 2000 by Oxford University Press, USA
(first published 1979)
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I had meant to request the more recent version of this book and received the 1979 version through inter-library loan instead. It was interesting to me, though the sexual-political themes in it felt dated, over-emphasized and simplistic. For example, he asserts that women are an oppressed minority and therefore at a disadvantage for attention in modern society. I've now requested the updated version, and it will be interesting to see how the author treats these same issues thirty years later.
This was an excellent book that clearly links social hierarchy with daily social interactions. Ever since I read it, I see how power inequalities play out in conversations and other social situations that so subtly yet obviously expose the individualistic competition for attention (and a better life).
Sociologist Charles Derber takes a look at the competition for attention in American society—a competition that has sharply increased since the first edition of this book appeared in 1979. He likens the competition for attention to the competition for money, with some people “rich” (attention-takers) and others “poor” (attention-givers and “invisibles”). He studies the phenomenon in two settings: informal (for example, casual conversations among friends) and formal (where social roles and statu ...more
The Pursuit of Attention brings clarity to certain human behaviors demonstative of the need for attention and examines the cultural distribution of attention based on economic status, gender, and education in both formal and informal settings. Charles Derber relies on outdated pop-culture icons and attitudes for reference, somewhat weakening his argument. What few solutions he offers seem far fetched and diminish hope for change.
Really makes you think about how people listen, or don't. A bit strange trying to have a conversation while also trying to analyze its direction. I picked it up mainly because of the word "Attention" in the title, which kind of figures into my spirituality or whatever after I read The Island.
This short read is surprisingly full of insight about human interaction and western culture. According to Charles Derber, attention is a commodity--attention is equal to status but the allocation of attention is unequal. I gave this book 4 stars, though, because I thought Derber's doomsday tone of voice was too dramatic and actually took away from the issue itself.
Charles Derber is Professor of Sociology at Boston College and has written 17 books - on politics, economy, capitalism, war, the culture wars, culture and conversation, and social change. He writes for and has been reviewed in the NY Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, Truthout, and other leading media. His books are translated into Chinese, Korean, Tamil, German and Polish- and he is a ...more