This quite inspiring book is the latest to join the clamour against consumerism revived in recent times by arch polemical psychologist Oliver James, whose bestselling Affluenza (2007) explained how modern life can play havoc with your sanity.
Unsurprisingly, salvaging our emotional selves is not so much a problem to think our way out of than feel our way out of. Gerhardt is persuasive in showing how economic history has messed up our minds – from the agrarian revolution to Thatcherism and beyond – but she saves her real firepower for the science, which worryingly proves that the brain itself is reshaped by changing social conditions and attitudes, and that babies starved of affection will gird themselves neurologically for a less empathetic, less clement, more autonomous world. If this seems dispiriting, Gerhardt is never less than buoyant and has world-saving proposals up her sleeve based on regrowing new generations of children with sound parenting methods and getting a proactive, pro-ethics government to cough up the extra support. These insightful chapters need to be read right now by everyone who is pregnant. In 20 years, people shouting into their mobile phones on trains could be a thing of the past.
The Selfish Society by Sue Gerhardt