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This lively and insightful account reveals the profound ways in which everyday acts and artifacts of consumer civilization shape our sense of self. Elemer Hankiss shows how human beings act simultaneously in two plays. On the "trivial" surface of their everyday lives they work, make money, raise children, build houses, and do a lot of other things. At the same time, they also act in the "existential" drama of their lives-even if they are not aware of doing so. They construct and reconstruct their selves each day by striving for authenticity, the intense experience of being, dignity, meaning, and the hope of immortality. Hankiss explores this interaction between the trivial and existential, in the process unfolding its context in "consumer civilization." This concept is brilliantly illustrated in a section entitled "the toothpaste of immortality": "If we watch enough commercials, we believe that this or that special brand of toothpaste preserves our teeth, and- per metonymiam-ourselves, young and beautiful indefinitely. And then, for a fleeting moment, there, in our bathrooms, we experience the sweet and melancholy illusion that we may stay young and beautiful forever; that we may defeat mortality; we may defeat decay and death." First published to great success in Hungarian, this entertaining and compelling book reveals surprising insights into the challenges and possibilities of self-fulfillment.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780801884214
ISBN-10: 0801884217
Format: Paperback
(229mm x 152mm x 29mm)
Pages: 448
Imprint: Johns Hopkins University Press
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Publish Date: 6-Oct-2006
Country of Publication: United States

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Author Biography - Elemer Hankiss

Elemer Hankiss is professor of sociology at the College of Europe in Bruges, Belgium. He has taught in European and American universities and has served as senior scientist for the Gallup Organization, chairman of Hungarian Public Television, and managing editor of the English-American Section of Europa Publishing House. He has published books in French, English, German, Polish, and Hungarian. His most recent book is Fears and Symbols: An Introduction to the Study of Western Civilization. He was a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in 1987-88 and 2003-4.