If individuality?by which we mean one?s inherent right to self-expression, self-actualization and self-fulfillment?is the highest ideal of a free society, then we North Americans are living in a Golden Age. The inclination to do it your way is an idea that permeates our art and literature; it underpins all the seminal philosophies upon which our democratic society is premised. Mill and Emerson. Feminism and civil rights. The 60s` ?find your bliss? ethos. The 80s` ?me? generation. The arrival of the Internet in the 90s and the impending consumer tsunami called ?mass customization.?
The unifying theme has been the same: there is nothing more vital than the power to choose?and to express oneself through those choices.
Atomization?the breaking apart of social systems into ever smaller pieces?is emerging as the most powerful force shaping Western society. This force is changing the spaces we inhabit; how we approach work; the way we manage our money; even the ways we find companionship, love and spirituality. Today, more people are living alone than in a household. Married couples are a minority. Reports suggest we busy ourselves with more personal interests but maintain fewer friendships. We spend billions of dollars a year on products and services designed to bolster?temporarily?some fragile and mythical notion of our own precious uniqueness.
We inhabit a culture of narcissism in which self-actualization?on ever more insignificant scales?is each person?s number one priority.
The Ego Boom: Why the World Really Does Revolve Around You is a fascinating, alarming, witty and deeply sobering examination of how the seductive promise of self-actualization in our consumer society is pure illusion.