cover image The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement

The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement

Jean M. Twenge, W. Keith Campbell, . . Free Press, $26 (339pp) ISBN 978-1-4165-7598-6

Twenge (Generation Me ) and Campbell (When You Love a Man Who Loves Himself ) argue that the U.S. is suffering from an epidemic of narcissism, as real and as dangerous as the more widely reported obesity epidemic. Although Christopher Lasch’s 1979 bestseller The Culture of Narcissism identified the phenomenon, this book draws on far more extensive research findings to claim that one in 10 Americans in their 20s suffers from narcissistic personality disorder, a psychocultural affliction and unanticipated consequence of the emphasis placed on self-esteem and self-promotion in modern parenting and the media and fed by Internet social networking sites that reinforce an obsessive need for admiration and ego-enhancement. At times, the authors sound like old scolds, but they themselves are members of the “Me Generation” and support their generalizations with persuasive evidence, particularly data derived from surveying 37,000 college students. Suggesting that the current financial crisis is, in part, a consequence of the narcissism epidemic affords the book an unexpected up-to-the-minute dimension, and the authors conclude with a dash of optimism, positing that straitened circumstances might cure Americans of all ages of narcissism. (Apr.)