On Becoming an Individual in an
Age of Distraction
Matthew B. Crawford
“[A] brilliant and searching new work of social criticism . . . Crawford proposes a different model of individuality and choice, at once traditional and radically new.”—Boston Review
In this book, Crawford investigates the challenge of mastering one’s own mind. We often complain about our fractured mental lives and feel beset by outside forces that destroy our focus and disrupt our peace of mind. Any defense against this, Crawford argues, requires that we reckon with the way attention sculpts the self. He shows that our current crisis of attention is only superficially the result of digital technology, and becomes more comprehensible when understood as the coming to fruition of certain assumptions at the root of Western culture that are profoundly at odds with human nature. The World Beyond Your Head makes sense of an astonishing array of common experience, from the frustrations of airport security to the rise of the hipster. With implications for the way we raise our children, the design of public spaces, and democracy itself, this is a book of urgent relevance to contemporary life.
Matthew B. Crawford is a senior fellow at the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture and a fabricator of components for custom motorcycles. His book Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work has prompted a wide rethinking of education and labor policies in the United States and Europe, leading The Sunday Times to call him “one of the most influential thinkers of our time.”