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Book Title: The Evolving Self: A Psychology for the Third Millennium|
The size of the: 7.17 MB
Edition: HarperCollins Publishers
Date of issue: September 1st 1993
The author of the book: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Format files: PDF
ISBN 13: 9780060166779
Read full description of the books The Evolving Self: A Psychology for the Third Millennium:In this bizarrely unfocused follow-up to his very popular book Flow The Psychology of Optimal Experience, author, M.C., wields his sociologically naive, largely false assertions with reckless abandon despite his lack of expertise and even rudimentary knowledge of the disciplines relevant to his subject matter, human culture. Rather than respond at length to the book's most problematic (and I would consider unpublishable) statements at the risk of appearing hyperbolic, I have grouped the quotations themselves by the dominant fallacy I saw. Excluding these, the author made some insightful observations that might be useful from an individual perspective, but I'm certain these can be found in more detail in his previous book linked above.
Fetishism of Progress:
Pages 18-9: The conquerors of history basically "were driven by the same impulses that send birds migrating or lemmings scurrying toward the sea," and "our brain is programmed by genes to 'take care of Number One'."
Page 24: We must avoid "excessive humility" and keep changing to avoid being "overcome by more vital life-forms." This seems to imply that we might have gone extinct, for no apparent reason, if agriculture and states had not arisen a few thousand years ago.
Page 33: This is just wrong: "Most people who work experience a more enjoyable state of mind on the job than at home."
He implies that, if we accept hardships caused by our jobs like a two-hour commute, then we must love our work. But, in fact, most of us accept the hardship of our jobs only because we are coerced with the threat of being denied food and a place to sleep.
Page 97: "One of the few unequivocal achievements of cultural evolution has been to make blatant forms of sexual and child exploitation less likely." This ignores the vast majority of human cultures, especially hunter-gatherers.
Page 131: "When cavemen learned to scratch lines on stones and bones to mark the passing of the seasons, they took the first step toward the great emancipation of the mind from the constraints of the brain."
Page 157: M.C says more "complexity" is the only way "to secure us a livable future." But, while there is nothing inherently wrong with complexity, he can't accept the fact that there's nothing inherently good about it either. "Harmony" can exist in simple or complex systems.
Page 191-2: M.C. says children who aren't "too severely abused" are always in flow, until school starts to control their growth, and eventually they experience it only in leisure activities. But isn't school then a kind of abuse? In fact it is just the beginning of a lifetime of abuse by a coercive society that makes flow experiences few and far between. The logical implication for me is that flow is most probable outside of coercive institutions be they schools or workplaces or countries.
Page 198: Examples that "come close to" an "ideal society", according to M.C.: "In Bali or some isolated villages in Europe...a variety of traditional crafts are still practiced at a high level of skill by every member of the community." This sounds like an example of harmony with little complexity. This scenario is the norm in hunter-gatherer societies. Instead of spending energy trying to find "opportunities for flow" in the current system, why not consider how to make a society that provides more opportunities for flow?! Or, more accurately, doesn't constrict them?
Page 202: M.C. is perplexed that "in our culture the aversion to work is so ingrained that even though it provides the bulk of the most complex and gratifying experiences, people still prefer having more free time." This likely indicates that, since we spend most of our waking hours doing it, we simply become better at working than any other activity. But the aversion to work is not "ingrained" by culture; it's an authentic response to coercion! If anything is ingrained it is a guilt-motivated "work ethic."
Page 204: Contrary to the author's contention, we don't have to "learn to enjoy complexity" and to achieve flow. We already have a natural capacity for flow, but it gets frustrated by the coercive demands of civilization. This is Freud's best insight.
Page 46: "During most of evolutionary history, gender specialization was simple: men had to produce, women reproduce." Where did this claim come from?! In fact, both men and women typically produced in hunter-gatherer societies. Reproduction is in no way "women's function."
He seems completely oblivious to how breathtakingly offensive and unsupportable this assertion is. He continues, saying, Louis XVI's mother had 11 miscarriages and 8 live births in 14 years, and "this was by no means an unusual situation during the millions of years of human evolution." In fact this kind of fertility is only present in sedentary societies. Nomadic hunter-gatherer families do not lug 10 kids along on their seasonal rounds.
Page 69-70: He counters the claim that "the farther south you go, the higher the level of civilization" by citing tribes in equatorial Africa, who he unquestionably sees as the lowest level of society he can imagine.
Page 72: WOW offensive: "the world of the Gusii [of West Africa:] does not look that much different from the world structured by genes...[Their goals:] are an extension of similar goals shared by nonhuman primates and by other lower species."
Page 76: Alluding to Julian Jaynes's, M.C. writes, "It has even been proposed that it was only three thousand years ago that people began to realize that they were thinking."
Page 77: "Selfishness is an eternal part of living, and ruthless bullies must have been abundant" in the past. In a hypothetical example, "Zorg, the imaginary leader of a group of hominids" prior to the evolution of consciousness, "when prompted by hunger or sexual desires,...takes advantage of his dominant position to take more than his share." "If he snarls, the others cringe." However, there is no evidence for anything like this kind of leadership role among nomadic hunter-gatherers!
Page 86: "Chapter 4: Predators and Parasites" "Oppression and parasitic exploitation are constant features of evolution." The equation of parasitism with exploitation and predation with oppression are unfounded. The resemblance between recent social phenomena and biological phenomena does not imply a causal relationship.
Page 144: "The idea of 'country' is a necessary and beneficial component of culture."
Page 104: "The meme for freedom has become concentrated in the American culture, and this, more than any other single trait, determines its uniqueness."
Page 108: "Much of history has consisted of periods in which some people worked hard to save property, while others squandered their opportunities in careless living. As time passed, the ones who had squandered became incensed at the injustice of owning so little. Often a revolution followed..."
Pages 264-5: "Many hard-working people, who are sometimes called workaholics, would disdainfully deny that they enjoy their jobs, an admission that would rob these jobs of their importance."
Why are jobs "important" independent of the worker's opinion to the contrary? M.C. seems determined to lie on behalf of workers who probably were telling the truth. The reason is his apparent affinity for the protestant work ethic. He believes that "Weber may have sold capitalism short;" that it's "the best game in town." He fails to see the obvious contradiction between flow and coercion.
Page 273: "Millions of immigrants from feudal societies, without any experience of democracy, have been lifted to a higher level of political awareness after being exposed to the laws of the United States."
And there you have it: we progress from Zorg to Africa to capitalism and the good ol' U.S. of A. Brilliant.
Read information about the authorA Hungarian psychology professor, who emigrated to the United States at the age of 22. Now at Claremont Graduate University, he is the former head of the department of psychology at the University of Chicago and of the department of sociology and anthropology at Lake Forest College.
He is noted for both his work in the study of happiness and creativity and also for his notoriously difficult name, in terms of pronunciation for non-native speakers of the Hungarian language, but is best known as the architect of the notion of flow and for his years of research and writing on the topic. He is the author of many books and over 120 articles or book chapters. Martin Seligman, former president of the American Psychological Association, described Csikszentmihalyi as the world's leading researcher on positive psychology.
Csikszentmihalyi once said "Repression is not the way to virtue. When people restrain themselves out of fear, their lives are by necessity diminished. Only through freely chosen discipline can life be enjoyed and still kept within the bounds of reason." His works are influential and are widely cited.
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