In Man (Dis) Connected the eminent psychologist Philip Zimbardo trains his clinical eye on what it means to be a man in the early 21st century. Young men can find out about sex through the internet, in ever more explicit ways, they can fight false wars on a computer screen, and see more and more horror exploding in the news. They are falling behind their female classmates, both academically and socially, whilst ever increasing unemployment has meant that fewer can find work in many of the older, masculine work places that their fathers and grandfathers took for granted. Computers are taking away their need to leave the house, whilst the increase in online gambling is causing more problems.
Zimbardo posits many reasons for this general malaise, from absentee fathers, the glamourisation of drugs and crime, to a general disillusionment with schools, low paid, low level jobs, and a largely unfair, and indifferent society.
Much like he did with The Lucifer Effect, Zimbardo’s previous, controversial – and abandoned – project, where volunteers took on the roles of prisoners and guards, he examines the problem from both sides. Seeing it as a world wide problem, rather than one confined to one country, or one generation, he posits that the way to improvements can be found in a multi-pronged attack, where the government, media, and local community can play a large part.
However, there is very little historical context within the book, and during the industrial revolution, the two world wars, even the market crash of 1929, young men would have found themselves facing similar issues, it is just that they are spoken of more, and studied more these days, particularly with our ever increasing reliance on computers.
The book is written in highly intelligent, but accessible language. Readers do not need to have three degrees in psychology to get the point, and there is a lot to learn from this book. The work of Zimbardo, and his research scientist Nikita S Coulombe is both vital and timely, with much to think about, not only for this generation, but for the next one, and the one after that.
Man (Dis) Connected: How Technology has sabotaged what it means to be male by Philip Zimbardo and Nikita S Coulombe
WHAT WE ARE THINKING: Which is best, a book or a garden?
OIR: Dave and Maggie at Cheltenham Literature Festival
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