The Pursuit of Attention: Power and Ego in Everyday Life

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Oxford University Press, Jun 15, 2000 - Social Science - 160 pages
"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' recognition? This useful and popular volume, now in a second edition that features major new introductory and concluding essays, entertainingly ponders this question. Derber argues that there is a general lack of social support in today's America, one which causes people to vie hungrily for attention, and he shows how individuals will often employ numerous techniques to turn the course of a conversation towards themselves. Illustrating this "conversational narcissism" with sample dialogues that will seem disturbingly familiar to all readers, this book analyzes the pursuit of attention in conversation--as well as in politics and celebrity culture--and demonstrates the ultimate importance of gender, class, and racial differences in competing for attention. Derber shows how changes in the economy and culture--such as the advent of the Internet--have intensified the rampant individualism and egotism of today. And finally, in a new afterword, he focuses on solutions: how to restructure the economy and culture to humanize ourselves and increase the capacity for community, empathy, and attention-giving.

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Part Informal Dynamicsndvduaism
Individualism FacetoFace
On Being Civilly Egocentric
The Overburdened Self and the Need for Attention
Conclusion to the Second Edition

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Page vi - If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am for myself only, what am I? And if not now, when?

About the author (2000)

Charles Derber, author of Corporation Nation and The Wilding of America, is Professor of Sociology at Boston College.

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