Together: The Rituals, Pleasures and Politics of Cooperation

Richard Sennett

Together: The Rituals, Pleasures and Politics of Cooperation

Living with people who differ — racially, ethnically, religiously, or economically — is one of the most difficult challenges facing us today. Though our society is becoming ever more complicated materially, we tend to avoid engaging with people unlike ourselves. Modern politics emphasizes unity and similarity, encouraging the politics of the tribe rather than of complexity. Together: the rituals, pleasures and politics of Co-operation explores why this has happened and what might be done about it. 3.6 out of 5 based on 10 reviews
Together: The Rituals, Pleasures and Politics of Cooperation

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Society, Politics & Philosophy
Format Hardback
Pages 336
RRP £25.00
Date of Publication February 2012
ISBN 978-0713998740
Publisher Allen Lane
 

Living with people who differ — racially, ethnically, religiously, or economically — is one of the most difficult challenges facing us today. Though our society is becoming ever more complicated materially, we tend to avoid engaging with people unlike ourselves. Modern politics emphasizes unity and similarity, encouraging the politics of the tribe rather than of complexity. Together: the rituals, pleasures and politics of Co-operation explores why this has happened and what might be done about it.

Reviews

The Independent

Boyd Tonkin

As much a close observer as a speculative thinker, Sennett pays attention to the whole person and their local habitation. When he reports from the Manhattan job centre where Wall Street casualties of the meltdown in finance seek work, or recalls his research on Boston factory-floors in the heyday of secure jobs, tough foremen and strong unions, you see, hear and imagine the place and the people. Sennett, the artist-philosopher, tells his tales as well as he elaborates his concepts.

27/01/2012

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The Literary Review

Bryan Appleyard

This is a somewhat rambling book and Sennett's prose is far from focused. His conclusion is effectively the same as his introduction, though I don’t condemn him for this because the problem he is addressing is too fundamental to be solved by argument, advice or policy ... It is hard to summarise the scope and erudition in these pages, or fully capture the seriousness of Sennett’s intent, which is, essentially, to find a way out of the quandaries — particularly for the Left — of the post-Cold War world.

01/02/2012

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The Sunday Times

Ian Critchley

Sennett’s vision appears utopian, but he has based his thinking on concrete examples of how co-operation works, as in the community housing project he experienced during a briefly impoverished childhood in Chicago. Together is a profound meditation on how humans act as social animals, and an inspiring call for us all to try and embrace differences of tribe, religion and class.

12/02/2012

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The Washington Post

Connie Schultz

Sennett makes a convincing argument — dozens of arguments, really — that human beings are flawed but full of potential. He encourages us to listen more and talk less, and to break down organizational silos of communication designed to exclude. He is an academic who celebrates whimsy, extolling the power of unscheduled moments when people thrown together — co-workers, students or neighbors — pause for informal exchanges. “A chance remark may suddenly open up a new vein of endeavor for people spending time together,” he writes. He is admittedly an aging sociologist who refuses to give up on people.

27/01/2012

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The Guardian

David Runciman

In many ways this is an old-fashioned book, which is part of its charm ... Its heroes are social reformers and artists, not economists and psychologists ... That said, Together is not always an easy read. It is curiously organised and sometimes repetitive (there are three different sections titled "The Workshop"). Sennett says some of this is deliberate: he wanted to produce a "dialogic" rather than "dialectical" book that would turn reading into a co-operative enterprise. I'm not sure this was such a good idea.

03/02/2012

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Times Higher Education

Frank Furedi

In his study of working-class families in Boston in the 1970s, Sennett found that one of the most important cultural resources that manual workers had at their disposal was the informal ties they had created ... Together does not quite provide a convincing account that explains the demise of informality, but it gives a compelling account of its consequences ... The problem that confronts us is that a skill required for the conduct of human relations — such as cooperation — needs to be learned but cannot be taught.

02/02/2012

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The London Review of Books

Jenny Turner

Is Sennett really proposing that tact and humour, bouts de papier and subjunctive chitchat might open a new way of living, a new way of thinking about the world? ... I like Richard Sennett in the way some people like Bob Dylan: I know that he writes a lot and that his stuff is uneven, but when he’s good he’s just so brilliant, and even when he’s less brilliant he has such style and heart. Quite a lot of this book reads to me like blog-type offcuts ... the problem with this chatty, eclectic method is that some people see it as too unrigorous to qualify as social science.

16/03/2012

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The New Statesman

Edward Skidelsky

Some of Sennett's recommendations come perilously close to the clichés of self-help ... Together is a rich work, interweaving history, social science and personal reminiscence. Yet the overall effect is one of genial discursiveness, not dialectic clarity. Too many voices compete for our attention; the line of argument runs thin.

20/02/2012

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The Daily Telegraph

Tom Chivers

Sennett is a likeable enough voice, and clearly a man of extraordinary intelligence, but his argument seems to bounce from place to place without an obvious structure; he goes into lengthy discussions of his time as a professional musician, or talking about his experiments with social media. He relies on anecdote and experience more than data. It aims to be a practical, how-to guide for maximising co-operation and avoiding tribalism, but ends up a sort of high-class self-help book — Tony Robbins rewritten by a philosophy PhD.

06/03/2012

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The Times

David Aaronovitch

... fairly rapidly we are introduced to the superior cultural world of the East, in which the Chinese concept of guanxi, extensive networking, is held to be a model for social organisation such as we in the West lack. But Sennett seems unaware that this system easily lends itself to cronyism and corruption ... one thing I felt very strongly here was the absence of any recognition of the revolution in women’s working ... This all sounds very negative, but there is a lot in the book to enjoy, provided you don’t demand coherence.

23/01/2012

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