Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Book of the Month: Assholes: A Theory

Assholes. Everybody knows a bunch of them, and they seem to be multiplying like self-absorbed rabbits in McGregor's garden. But up until now, no one has done a scientific study of them. Aaron James is a university professor of philosophy and an avid surfer, and those disciplines give him the insight needed for his new book, Assholes: A Theory.

For the first time James attempts a scientific definition of the term "asshole", examines many examples of asshole-osity that we see around us, and answers the questions regarding the source, the genesis, the future of assholes, why some cultures have so many of them (the US) and some so few (Japan), and most importantly, how we can deal with them.

I got the book because I couldn't resist the title. I thought it would be funny, and it is, but it's also a serious study of the phenomenom, and examines why we find so many assholes are on the Right (e.g., Dick Cheney, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, etc.), and relatively few on the Left (e.g., Michael Moore, Keith Olbermann). He also goes to some length explaining why so few assholes are female (Ann Coulter).

The section on Asshole Capitalism alone is worth the price of admission, and it's pretty scary stuff. Unlike Jon Ronson, James holds that CEOs and the like are, for the most part, not sociopaths or psychopaths but just Assholes. They think like Assholes, they do asshole stuff, and the rest of us get left behind.

As an aside, go read the Amazon reviews. As one reviewer says, "Apparently the robotic censors that patrol the reviews will not allow a review to post that actually uses the title of this book."