Constructing Modern Selves 1: Dangers of the Class System

How do less wealthy people maintain a worthy self-concept in a class-based society, a place where people are encouraged to think of themselves as equal to anyone else?

Rethinking Authenticity

Being authentic does not mean standing alone; it means making worthy judgments about the people one chooses to stand with.

The Myth of the Self-Made Individual

We should be wary of those who claim to be self-made, who tout themselves as the emblems of accomplishment. These prominent people simply disregard the support they’ve had.

Allegiance to What?

“Who” and “what” are we respecting when we proclaim our devotion to country? And who gets to say what our expressions of commitment – or non-commitment – "mean"?

Embarrassment, Guilt, and Shame

Our possibilities for cooperating depend on respecting other people and courting their regard. Embarrassment, guilt, and shame keep us attentive to those concerns.

Greed and Fear

Be clear that strictly private benefit is not life’s best ambition. The best forms of comfort come from the support of others and not from self-maneuvering.

Varieties of Truth?

We operate with different standards of truth that harden into fixed “positions.” We must subject those standards – our own as well as others’ – to scrutiny.

Seeking Common Ground 3: Reasserting the American Commitment

The challenge—for both blue and red—is to abandon the noisy rhetoric and to consider, earnestly, how personal and public good can be integrated.

Seeking Common Ground II: The Progressive Spirit

A “public” sphere appropriately transcends “private” concerns. The wealth of a nation is not the aggregate of individual interests but an expression of collective well-being.

Seeking Common Ground I: The Conservative Tradition

There are people today who believe that the past presents a worthy, indeed better, model for living. Past times were simpler, or at least more blinkered in their resolve.

Bursting Our Bubbles

If we cannot escape the particular “bubble” of our lives, we should at least acknowledge that others operate in similar spheres, which are as important to them as ours are to us.

Race: The Reality of the Imagined

Ideas of race, inflamed by ideology, are remnants of a bygone age. It is time to defuse them and to communicate about the real issues that confront us all.

Expressing Ourselves, Provisionally

Disconnected from personal responsibility, expressive discourse leads to a public culture that is cantankerous, disorganizing, and sour.

Anger, the Convenient Emotion

Anger is the emotional refuge of those who have seen their positions in the world decline and who have lost faith in society’s ability to respond to those concerns.

Constructing and Deconstructing Prejudice

Prejudicial resources must be deconstructed at all the five stages of judgment—and shown to be defective as a framework for living in a civil society.

Rethinking Prejudice

Prejudice is a “resource system,” an arsenal of weaponry–cultural, social, and personal–that remains in storage most of the time but can be taken out and used strategically.

Pride and Prejudice

Despite its happy ending and persistent exploration of love, "Pride and Prejudice" is no romance. It is about the challenges of human discernment in a changing, newly mobile era

Suspicious Characters

We must be careful in marking individuals off as despicable, or in making ourselves comfortable with them by terms like “crazy” or “radicalized” or "depressed.”

Why We Are Unhappy

Modern people are unhappy because they cannot experience completion... No one knows if they have reached their destination or if that end-point is years ahead.

Versions of Happiness

Four types of happiness involve different kinds of excitements and assurances. All are valuable, if limited in their applications. Wise people do not rely on one pattern alone.

The Happiness Cult

Happiness in its truest expression is that which links the self to others and which grants those same feelings of assurance and support to them.

The Broken Self

Too many of us fancy that we would be better, stronger people if only we were left alone to pursue our private life-visions. The opposite of this belief may be the truer one.

Terms of Engagement

To attach only in the fashion of the small child, or even the ardent lover, is not enough. Attachment fits no single blueprint but is fundamental to all forms of human involvement

Practicing the Art of Living

When we commit to love relationships we do not renounce our individual powers; we do not give ourselves away. Instead, we build those selves.

Self-Improvement as Cultural Illness

Have we slipped the social and cultural moorings that historically have connected people and guided their ventures into the world?

Rethinking the Emotions

Emotions push us into and through situations. Like traffic signals, they offer permissions, stop us, and flash warnings. Under their spell, the business of living feels possible.

Criticizing Personal Autonomy

The free person is not the angry loner, willfully standing apart from those who would sap his energies. Nor is she the enthusiastic manager of others, who directs and controls their behaviors - and reaps the satisfactions of her manipulations. Free people are those who recognize the legitimacy of other people’s participation in their own lives

In Praise of Ritual

We need rituals because they make plain the ground-rules by which humans operate. But those rules should be seen less as confinements than as opportunities to communicate with others and to declare our distinctive places in the human community.

Why We Need Work

As much as we might like to inhabit another vision – perhaps lounging on the deck of our new home as we gaze at the ocean across an unpopulated beach – it would be our undoing. What work teaches, and what the Puritans emphasized, is the value of charting a trajectory for one’s life and of maintaining that trajectory.

In Search of Consummation

Five hundred years ago, communities recreated themselves in moment sof privileged festivity. Now, we are encouraged to travel and shop afar for experiences, and to share these publicly as proof of who we have become. The best part of life ... is to the getaway, the period of glorious self-indulgence. How long before we plot our next excurision?