A Higher Theory of Assholes

Der Chronicle of Higher Education in einem superunterhaltsamen Text über den Philosophen Aaron James und seine Theorie über Arschlöcher. Der Mann hat eine ziemlich schlüssige These aufgestellt, warum das Arschloch an sich so gut in unsere Gesellschaft und in die heutige Zeit passt, im Gegensatz etwa zum Drecksack, Wichser, Scheißkerl oder dem Depp.

James argues for a three-part definition of assholes that boils down to this: Assholes act out of a deep-rooted sense of entitlement, a habitual and persistent belief that they deserve special treatment. (Nunberg points out that use of the phrase “sense of entitlement” tracks the spread of “asshole”—both have spiked since the 1970s.) How to distinguish an asshole from a scumbag, a jerk, a prick, or a schmuck? Assholes are systematic. We all do assholeish things, but only an asshole feels fully justified in always acting like an asshole. As James puts it, “If one is special on one’s birthday, the asshole’s birthday comes every day.”

To put meat on the bones of his theory, James names names. He was loath to do it. “I don’t see my job in life being the asshole police,” he says. But after a few pages of throat clearing—”We happily admit that any examples are properly controversial … we stand ready to update and revise”—he walks us through the “teeming asshole ecosystem.” There is the boorish asshole, who willfully flouts basic standards of decency (Rush Limbaugh and Michael Moore); the smug asshole, who is certain of his intellectual superiority (Richard Dawkins, Larry Summers, and Bernard-Henri Lévy, whom James describes as “a caricature of the intellectual asshole”); the asshole boss (think Michael Scott on television’s The Office); the royal asshole (Henry VIII); the corporate asshole (Steve Jobs); the reckless asshole (Dick Cheney); the self-aggrandizing asshole (Cheney again, also Ralph Nader).

There are many species in the asshole kingdom.

Chronicle of Higher Education: A Social Offender for Our Times (via 3QuarksDaily)

Aaron James Theorie der Arschlöcher gibt’s auch seit ein paar Wochen als Buch, hab’ ich mir grade bestellt und auf meinen Kindle schicken lassen. Weil ich ja sonst nix zu lesen hab’.

In the spirit of the mega-selling On Bullshit, philosopher Aaron James presents a theory of the asshole that is both intellectually provocative and existentially necessary.

What does it mean for someone to be an asshole? The answer is not obvious, despite the fact that we are often personally stuck dealing with people for whom there is no better name. Try as we might to avoid them, assholes are found everywhere—at work, at home, on the road, and in the public sphere. Encountering one causes great difficulty and personal strain, especially because we often cannot understand why exactly someone should be acting like that.

Asshole management begins with asshole understanding. Much as Machiavelli illuminated political strategy for princes, this book finally gives us the concepts to think or say why assholes disturb us so, and explains why such people seem part of the human social condition, especially in an age of raging narcissism and unbridled capitalism. These concepts are also practically useful, as understanding the asshole we are stuck with helps us think constructively about how to handle problems he (and they are mostly all men) presents. We get a better sense of when the asshole is best resisted, and when he is best ignored—a better sense of what is, and what is not, worth fighting for.

Amazon-Partnerlink: Assholes: A Theory (Kindle), Assholes: A Theory (Hardcover)