Posts Tagged ‘Brooks’

American Self-Creation

Abraham Lincoln cherished and annotated Mary G. Chandler’s popular 1854 book, The Elements of Character, which urged readers to take control of themselves and “build up a worthy Character.”

Self-improvement books of this sort are an American perennial. David Brooks’s The Road to Character is squarely in this tradition of willed self-creation. My commentary on Brooks’s new book appears in the latest issue of the Boston Review here. Chandler

[The column is titled, “The Problem with David Brooks.” This is the editors’ title, not mine. I think Brooks just displays what may be an American problem.]roadtocharacter-web


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In a recent column, David Brooks (who is to applauded for often bringing social science research to his Times readers) argued that social policy has very limited effects on important human outcomes; it is “usually swamped by the influence of culture, ethnicity, psychology and a dozen other factors.”

The historical record, however, suggests that policy decisions often have quite profound consequences.

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