Envy: a theory of social behaviour

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Liberty Fund, 1987 - Law - 452 pages
Envy was first published in German in 1966, then in an English translation in 1970. This classic study is one of the few books to explore extensively the many facets of envy -- "a drive which lies at the core of man's life as a social being." Ranging widely over literature, philosophy, psychology, and the social sciences, Professor Schoeck -- a distinguished sociologist and anthropologist -- elucidates both the constructive and destructive consequences of envy in social life. Perhaps most importantly he demonstrates that not only the impetus toward a totalitarian regime but also the egalitarian impulse in democratic societies are alike in being rooted in envy.

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While this book had been recommended in a discussion about why people vote for progressive taxation even when they themselves have to pay the tax, I had no idea just how relevant it was going to be. The sources Herr Schoeck cites always surprised me with their breadth and depth, the shear variety of different fields of literature, medicine, art, history, and yet it's clear that he has read them all.
As I read it, in all honesty the book just keept getting better.
My only regret is that the people I know who should read this won't read it. Just like the sources cited by Herr Schoeck who perform Herculean linguistic efforts to avoid just using the word "envy", the shame of admitting that envy is a part of their lives will prevent them from any introspection, any analysis of how envy has warped their interactions with others, and created a realm of politics, ascendant today, that is driven entirely by envy.



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