According to current thinking, anyone who fails to succeed must have something wrong with them. The pressure to achieve and be happy is taking a heavy toll, resulting in a warped view of the self, disorientation, and despair. People are lonelier than ever before. Today’s pay-for-performance mentality is turning institutions such as schools, universities, and hospitals into businesses — even individuals are being made to think of themselves as one-person enterprises. Love is increasingly hard to find, and we struggle to lead meaningful lives.
In What about Me?, Paul Verhaeghe’s main concern is how social change has led to this psychic crisis and altered the way we think about ourselves. He investigates the effects of 30 years of neoliberalism, free-market forces, privatisation, and the relationship between our engineered society and individual identity. It turns out that who we are is, as always, determined by the context in which we live.
From his clinical experience as a psychotherapist, Verhaeghe shows the profound impact that social change is having on mental health, even affecting the nature of the disorders from which we suffer. But his book ends on a note of cautious optimism. Can we once again become masters of our fate?
Paul Verhaeghe is professor of clinical psychology and psychoanalysis at the University of Ghent in Belgium, and is also in private practice. He is the author of Narcissus in Mourning, Love in a Time of Loneliness, and What about Me?: the struggle for identity in a marked-based society. The American edition of On Being Normal and Other Disorders (2002) was awarded the Goethe Prize.
Jane Hedley-Prôle studied German and Dutch at the University of Liverpool, after which she settled in the Netherlands. Alongside her job at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs she works as a freelance translator. Since her accreditation as a literary translator by the Dutch Foundation for Literature she has translated Diaghilev; A Life by Sjeng Scheijen (together with S.J. Leinbach), The Fetish Room by Rudi Rotthier, We Are Our Brains by Dick Swaab and many short stories for the Citybooks initiative by the Flemish-Dutch publishers deBuren.
“Remarkable…What About Me? is one of those books that, by making connections between apparently distinct phenomena, permits sudden new insights into what is happening to us and why.”
—George Monbiot, The Guardian
“Paul Verhaeghe brilliantly captures the long-term impact that living in a profit-obsessed society has had on our psychology. An excellent book.”
“[An] intriguing study of modern identity”
“This book begins quietly and slowly builds in power and eloquence as it illuminates the impact of the past 30 years of neo-liberal ideology on our sense of identity.” PICK OF THE WEEK