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About the Author

Jonathan Rauch is a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, a contributing editor of the Atlantic and National Journal, and the author of six books.

Includes the name: Jon Rauch

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Associated Works

Beyond Queer: Challenging Gay Left Orthodoxy (1996) — Avustaja — 166 kappaletta
The Best American Magazine Writing 2005 (2005) — Avustaja — 54 kappaletta
The Best American Political Writing 2005 (2005) — Avustaja — 35 kappaletta

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Expands on "truth" (or the lack thereof) as a way identifying with a social group, especially when that "belief" has no cost -- "believing" in q-anon or that or that covid vaccines introduce nano-bots into your bloods doesn't affect your daily. Also includes a history of call-outs and canceling, and provies suggestions for supporting free speech, particularly at universities. Overall, an argument for the shared truth web that science and civilization depend on.
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Castinet | 1 muu arvostelu | Dec 11, 2022 |
This is an excellent work defending the search for truth, via mutual criticism, as ideally used in all academic disciplines, along with journalism, and, for some people some of the time, daily life. The idea is that human beings all have blind spots, biases, etc., but we can get closer to truth by getting input from as many others as possible - the more diverse the better - as their biases and blind spots may differ. Hence we have the scientific method, ideally proceeding via peer review, replication, and the whole apparatus many of us learned about in school. But we also have the critical methods of history, astronomy, and many other fields which lack the ability to perform controlled experiments.

The book offers an extended analogy to the way a good democratic political system is designed to work. Ideally no one group can dominate, and there's a never-ending tug-of-war between numerous interests, generally winding up with policies somewhere in between what each extreme would like - and rarely static, as the balance of interests change, or deals are made between them. Hence the title.

It also devotes long chapters to two currently prominent ways that this search for truth is being derailed, complete with many current examples. On the one hand, you have the spewing out and amplification of convenient rubbish, with no concern for truth - whether for lolz, political advantage, or to destabilize a foreign power. On the other hand, you have the requirement that all communication be 100% unoffensive to any possible complainant - or at least any complainant deemed credible by Twitter mobs, university bureaucracy, or groups of eager de-platformers. (Yes, I've bent over backwards not to use the usual labels for these behaviours, as those tend to trigger knee-jerk reactions.)

Perhaps unusually, this author retains epistemic humility, at least in writing. The methods he describes take time to work - sometimes generations. We don't know now what faux truths all the best members of the truth seeking communities all agree upon, so certain that they neglect to consider any criticism they encounter. etc. etc. Like democracy, these methods are presented as better than any alternatives which have been tried, rather than as perfect.

I liked the book so much that I really really wanted to improve it, by talking to the author about what appear to me to be some of his blind spots. Sadly, I imagine that my input would be filtered out, because on the one hand, most of the responses he receives are probably from crackpots, and on the other hand, it would be trivially easy to pattern match my prime concerns with those of more articulate members of one of the groups of trouble maker. (My point would be that these methods may not in fact be best for people in certain situations, who most likely turn up disproportionately represented in one of these groups. The 'constitution of knowledge' needs to adapt to handle what I see as their quite legitimate complaints - or adopt other methods, such as censorship, to shut them up while thereby simultaneously undermining their own claimed goals.)
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ArlieS | 1 muu arvostelu | Nov 6, 2022 |
9 stars: Super, couldn't put it down

From the back cover: Why does happiness get harder in your 40s? Why do you feel in a slump when you’re successful? Where does this malaise come from? And, most importantly, will it ever end?

Drawing on cutting-edge research, award-winning journalist Jonathan Rauch answers all these questions. He shows that from our 20s into our 40s, happiness follows a U-shaped trajectory, a “happiness curve,” declining from the optimism of youth into what’s often a long, low slump in middle age, before starting to rise again in our 50s.

This isn’t a midlife crisis, though. Rauch reveals that this slump is instead a natural stage of life―and an essential one. By shifting priorities away from competition and toward compassion, it equips you with new tools for wisdom and gratitude to win the third period of life.

And Rauch can testify to this personally because it was his own slump, despite acclaim as a journalist and commentator that compelled him to investigate the happiness curve. His own story and the stories of many others from all walks of life―from a steelworker and a limo driver to a telecoms executive and a philanthropist―show how the ordeal of midlife malaise reboots our values and even our brains for a rebirth of gratitude.

Full of insights and data and featuring many ways to endure the slump and avoid its perils and traps, The Happiness Curve doesn’t just show you the dark forest of midlife, it helps you find a path through the trees. It also demonstrates how we can―and why we must―do more to help each other through the woods. Midlife is a journey we mustn’t walk alone.


This book was recommended to me by a psychologist who knows my story well, with the preface "You know this already". Well, that wasn't quite correct. It is true that my own trough of the happiness curve was about 10 years earlier (at 42 vs. my current 52) However the reasons for this, the idea that the "curve" is universal across cultures and economic status (and on some levels, primate species), and the specific shifting from personal focus to larger societal / village focus, was new information for me. I found this book very helpful, insightful, and have recommended both the book and its concepts to a number of people. I certainly recommended to many parts of Rauch's story and the anecdotes he shares. I'm sure it is one I will refer to many times.

Some sections I would like to remember:

The post midlife upturn is no mere transient change in mood: it is a change in our values and sources of satisfaction, a change in *who we are*. It often brings unexpected contentment that extends into old age and, yes even into frailty and illness.

In my own forties, my life satisfaction was low, and much lower than I thought it should be, but my mood was usually not a problem. That was partof the reason I did not believe I was a candidate for medical care. I did not have a mood disorder. I had a contentment disorder.

I would not for a moment say there was anything desirable about Mary Ann's bruising trials, but her encounters with mortality and suffering may have boiled off unrealistic optimism which otherwise would have taken longer to leach away. Her family's crises seem to have taken her on a shortcut to mature realism of the latter portion of the expectations curve. [This resonates. I feel my trough was a decade earlier than average and few around me would say otherwise].

What if social lives of seniors were not withering but being pruned? What if age brought a shift in emotional priorities? What people were saying is that they're very interested in the people that they care about and the ones they really love. But they're not interested in just any person whom one could sit in front of them, or they were much less interested than when they were younger. And that was the selectivity theory. Emotions stay intact, but people make increasingly careful decisions about what they invest in and in whom they invest."

Popular culture tells us that youth is vibrant and happy, the best time of life, and midlife will bring "crisis" and then old age will bring functional and emotional decline. When the reality is that youth tends to be a time of challenging emotional extremes, middle age a time of grinding but productive adjustment, and the gray years are generally the happiest of all.

The older you get, you'll have more physical problems, but you'll have a lot of knowledge. YOu're also going to come to find yourself with the freedom to care about what matters most to you, and pursue those goals and not the goals that other people say should matter to you.

As I interviewed people about their midlife transitions, and their lives afterward...always suggesting a reorientation of personal values away from ambition and toward connection.... The transition has a direction: Something you could even call a purpose. The upslope of the happiness curve has an emotional direction, which is toward positivity. But it also has a relational direction, which is toward community. In other words, this is a social story.

Earlier in life, Christine had imagined holding big, important roles that make a dent in the world's problems.... Had her ideals collapsed? Not exactly. "I can't save the world. I can save my little corner of it." The ambition and idealism were still there but she had scoped them to fit her ambit of control. She was less invested in the abstract and general, more in the concrete and specific. ... we discern elements of growing wisdom: movement toward equanimity, toward pragmatic problem solving and reflection, toward other directed priorites.

It does seem that by the time people are in their 40s they have achieved a lot of what they had hoped to achieve so there's this grand question of "Now what? Is this it? In the 40s there still seems to be great energy ... One of the things I see as a therapist is people constantly comparing their relationships and situations to other people. As they get into their 60s and 70s they are much more accepting.

Self help is valuable. Self help is important... however necessary, it is incomplete and in some ways missing the point. The larger, yet mostly neglected, portion of the answer lies outside ourselves. ... We need social channels and a U friendly environment. We need institutions and public norms that ease the way, instead of institutions that ignore the happiness curve and public norms that mock it [midlife 'crisis']. We need a story about what we are experiencing which assumes we are normal, not broken.

Most people do not experience acute depression. They experience chronic dissatisfaction, which is very different. Their values and their lives are in tension and their achievement and fulfillment are out of sync, neither of which is a medical problem.

Although adolescence and the trough of the happiness curve are not at all the same biologically, emotionally or socially, they are alike in that they are challenging and distinctive transitions which are commonplace, predictable, and nonpathological. But one of them has a supportive environment whereas the other has... red sports cars.

By telling a story about normalcy that is at odds with reality, we manufacture dismay and shame about a perfectly normal transition. By expecting people to exhibit maximum mastery in midlife, we leave them to their own devices if they feel adrift and vulnerable. ... we increase their isolation and therefore unhappiness. By telling them that their best years are behind them at age 50, we make them gloomy about the future. In all those ways, by telling the wrong story about adult development, we bait and set the midlife trap.

Homosexuality stopped being abnormal in large part [because people started talking openly about it. People accepted and connected.] I have seen again and again...the relief people feel when they can have a nonjudgemental, fact based conversation about midlife malaise. I see the surprise and smiles when they hear that the happiness curve is normal and seen around the world, even among apes.

If I had to explain the upside of the U in just three words, the worlds I would use are these: Gratitude comes easier. That is the hidden gift of the happiness curve.
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PokPok | 2 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Dec 30, 2021 |
A must read for anyone pursuing higher education, seeking to influence public policy, or who wishes to know what we can expect each other to know.
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relussier | 2 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Jul 4, 2021 |

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