April 19, 2010 8:02 am

The Selfish Society

Book cover of 'The Selfish Society' by Sue Gerhardt

The Selfish Society: How We All Forgot to Love One Another and Made Money Instead, by Sue Gerhardt, Simon & Schuster £12.99 388 pages, FT Bookshop price: £10.39

Gerhardt’s first book, Why Love Matters, was a popular account of the psychology of child development. In this ambitious follow-up, the author applies her analysis to wider society; she examines the rise of individualism, challenges the Enlightenment paradigm of moral judgment, and quotes everyone from Engels to David Cameron along the way.

She advocates a cultural shift away from the capitalist credo of self-sufficiency to an “ethics of care”, based on a “developmental view of morality”.

The idea that broken Britain might be mended with cuddles will attract cynicism, but Gerhardt has the neuroscience to back it up. She intersperses her extensive research with anecdotes drawn from her experiences as a practising psychotherapist, offering insights into the critical importance of the values learnt in early life.

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