Friday, July 13, 2007

A Crowd of One : The Future of Individual Identity by John Henry Clippinger

Recommended reading -- click here to order from

In A CROWD OF ONE, John Clippinger takes us through the historical origins of identity and the way it is influencing – and being influenced by – today's world. He examines origin narratives from around the world and the religious underpinnings of many people's identities, and explores the competing theories of human nature developed by Hobbes, Adam Smith, and some of the other leading philosophical minds throughout history. He applies principles from evolutionary biology to show why and how we evolved some of our most unique capacities: trust, empathy, retribution, honor, virtue, leadership, reciprocity, and collaboration. Drawing on modern scientific studies, he debunks some of our strongest-held beliefs about individualism, rationality, self interest and moral absolutism. He challenges thinkers on the Left and the Right and proposes a new theory of leadership, social virtue, and cooperation derived from evolutionary biology and neuroscience.

The book is audaciously ambitious in some respects (and I agree with the Publishers Weekly editorial review on suggesting the book would benefit from a clearer central thesis) but is nonetheless a very timely and thought-provoking read, and also a useful complement to other books I've read recently including The Cult of the Amateur and The Assault on Reason.

Thanks to Jamie Lewis for the book recommendation

A Crowd of One : The Future of Individual Identity by John Henry Clippinger

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