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An investigative journalist exposes the many holes in today’s bestselling behavioral science, and argues that the trendy, TED-Talk-friendly psychological interventions that are so in vogue at the moment will never be enough to truly address social injustice and inequality.
With their viral TED talks, bestselling books, and counter-intuitive remedies for complicated problems, psychologists and other social scientists have become the reigning thinkers of our time. Grit and “power posing” promised to help overcome entrenched inequalities in schools and the workplace; the Army spent hundreds of millions of dollars on a positive psychology intervention geared at preventing PTSD in its combat soldiers; and the implicit association test swept the nation on the strength of the claim that it can reveal unconscious biases and reduce racism in police departments and human resources departments.
But what if much of the science underlying these blockbuster ideas is dubious or fallacious? What if Americans’ longstanding preference for simplistic self-help platitudes is exerting a pernicious influence on the way behavioral science is communicated and even funded, leading respected academics and the media astray?
In The Quick Fix, Jesse Singal examines the most influential ideas of recent decades and the shaky science that supports them. He begins with the California legislator who introduced self-esteem into classrooms around the country in the 1980s and the Princeton political scientist who warned of an epidemic of youthful “superpredators” in the 1990s. In both cases, a much-touted idea had little basis in reality, but had a massive impact. Turning toward the explosive popularity of 21st-century social psychology, Singal examines the misleading appeal of entertaining lab results and critiques the idea that subtle unconscious cues shape our behavior. As he shows, today’s popular behavioral science emphasizes repairing, improving, and optimizing individuals rather than truly understanding and confronting the larger structural forces that drive social ills.
Like Anand Giridharadas’s Winners Take All, The Quick Fix is a fresh and powerful indictment of the thought leaders and influencers who cut corners as they sell the public half-baked solutions to problems that deserve more serious treatment.
Hijack the Conference on the Future of Europe!
Grab your pitchforks. This exercise designed to go nowhere could drive change — if ordinary citizens mobilize.
"in uncertain times, societies see a rise of "occultures," meaning "groups of people who are attracted to strange occult and esoteric ideas, mixing them in unforeseen ways with political movements."
I can’t emphasize this point enough: one of the gravest errors made by far too many people in the U.S. is taking an exceptionally self-centered view of U.S.-China relations, where everything is about what the U.S. says and does, while China is treated like an NPC. Indeed, it is quite insulting to China, a great nation with a history far longer than that of the United States.
To that end, this long history looms large in how China thinks about its relationship to the U.S. specifically, and the West generally. China is driven to reverse its “century of humiliation”, and to retake what it sees as its rightful place as a dominant force in the world. What few in the West seem to realize, though, is that the Chinese Communist Party very much believes that Marxism is the means by which that must be accomplished, and that Western liberal values are actively hostile to that goal. Tanner Greer wrote in Tablet:
Xi Jinping endorsed this explanation for the Soviet collapse in a 2013 address to party cadres. “Why did the Soviet Union disintegrate?” he asked his audience. “An important reason is that in the ideological domain, competition is fierce!” The party leadership is determined to avoid the Soviet mistake. A leaked internal party directive from 2013 describes “the very real threat of Western anti-China forces and their attempt at carrying out westernization” within China. The directive describes the party as being in the midst of an “intense, ideological struggle” for survival. According to the directive, the ideas that threaten China with “major disorder” include concepts such as “separation of powers,” “independent judiciaries,” “universal human rights,” “Western freedom,” “civil society,” “economic liberalism,” “total privatization,” “freedom of the press,” and “free flow of information on the internet.” To allow the Chinese people to contemplate these concepts would “dismantle [our] party’s social foundation” and jeopardize the party’s aim to build a modern, socialist future.
Westerners asked to think about competition with China — a minority until fairly recently, as many envisioned a China liberalized by economic integration — tend to see it through a geopolitical or military lens. But Chinese communists believe that the greatest threat to the security of their party, the stability of their country, and China’s return to its rightful place at the center of human civilization, is ideological. They are not fond of the military machines United States Pacific Command has arrayed against them, but what spooks them more than American weapons and soldiers are ideas—hostile ideas they believe America has embedded in the discourse and institutions of the existing global order. “International hostile forces [seek to] westernize and divide China” warned former CPC General Secretary Jiang Zemin more than a decade ago, and that means that, as Jiang argued in a second speech, the “old international political and economic order” created by these forces “has to be changed fundamentally” to safeguard China’s rejuvenation. Xi Jinping has endorsed this view, arguing that “since the end of the Cold War countries affected by Western values have been torn apart by war or afflicted with chaos. If we tailor our practices to Western values … The consequences will be devastating.”