GRACEFUL SIMPLICITY by Jerome M. Segal

GRACEFUL SIMPLICITY

Toward a Philosophy and Politics of Simple Living
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Some useful insights, oddly afloat in a sea of wishful thinking. Philosopher and former House Budget Committee staff member Segal (Agency and Alienation: A Theory of Human Presence, not reviewed, etc.) joins the chorus of those disgusted with the values of our fast-paced, technologically driven consumer society. He agrees with Aristotle that “the flourishing of our deepest selves” constitutes the good life, rather than the joys of consumption and the reckless pursuit of riches. Segal notes that contemporary economic abundance has not produced universal happiness. He eschews the American tradition of reducing the quest for the good life to an individual’s activity, recognizing that society shapes available choices—and hence the need for a politics as well as a philosophy of ’simple” living. While we spend more on transportation than did any citizen of the last century, for example, this fact cannot be fairly attributed only to our increased appetite for luxury. Social and economic geography (homes and workplaces are no longer located close together) and public policy (an emphasis on road-building, rather than on public transport systems) today demand greater expenditures than ever. Segal builds his politics on this basic insight. When policy decisions are being made, he suggests, those involved ought to consider whether said policies would encourage simple living. Unfortunately, while expanding the potential for such living through policy-making holds an appeal, what’s the likelihood that simple living’s partisans would prevail over more powerful interests? Short of rule by graceful tyrants, Segal’s politics is little more than a pleasant dream. Moreover, his substantive proposals—e.g., eliminating the “worst hassles” of daily life, such as the shortage of salespeople in large department stores—may not produce earth-shaking results. An appealing philosophy but without any well-developed or realistic politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-8050-5679-3
Page count: 280pp
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1999




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