Join the Club

Join the Club_

On reflection, it strikes me that my use of the word “club” in “Building a Full Employment Movement: Options for Action (2/14/14 Draft)” was likely influenced unconsciously by my reading of Join the Club: How Peer Pressure Can Transform the World, by Tina Rosenberg (April 23, 2012). The book addresses personal, social, and political change.

Following is the publisher’s book description:

A winner of the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, Tina Rosenberg has spent her career tackling some of the world’s hardest problems. Now, through striking stories from around the globe, Rosenberg shows how positive peer pressure can change people’s behavior and solve seemingly intractable social quandaries. In every case, pioneering social entrepreneurs throw out the old models for social change in favor of humanity’s most powerful and abundant resource: our connections with one another. The result is one of those rare books that will not only revolutionize the way you look at the world but also give you the power to change it.

The Newsweek” review by Abraham Verghese included: “Empowering . . . sweepingly ambitious . . . . Rosenberg’s case studies are as different as they are fascinating . . . A brilliant book.”

On Amazon, 16 customer reviews give it an average of 4 out of 5 stars, but even the “most helpful” critical review is rather positive. It reads:

Hidden Wisdom. This should have been one of the most fascinating books I’ve ever read; the premise is groundbreaking, the examples (mostly) of tremendous interest and extremely well-researched, and the author’s personal commitment to the subject from her own life experience adds another dimension of insight. Add to that the promise of a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist at the helm, and you start to wonder whose fault it is that the end result is such a sorry mess. In fact, it kept sending me to sleep, and the only reason I struggled through to the very end was my utter fascination with the subject.
It reads like an early, unedited draft. Why? Firstly, its unnecessarily long. The obsessive attention to detail added nothing to my interest in the subject or my understanding of the argument. Secondly, it reads like two books mixed randomly together. One book (the one you ordered) is about significant social change for good brought about by peer-group pressure. The other book (slipped inside without prior warning) reads like a long-winded promotion for some kind of commercialized evangelical Christianity. Thirdly, its disorganized. With such a complex and ground-breaking idea, drawing examples from so many diverse and contested areas of social conflict, it was always going to be difficult to create a coherent line of argument. Unfortunately, a supporting cast of thousands surges on and off the page in a way that obscures the main characters, the ideas.
There are many important nuggets of wisdom hidden away inside this book. The ideas are brilliant and the argument is convincing and has already changed my perspective on life. It’s sad and frustrating that the writing and editing didn’t fulfill the potential.

The most helpful favorable review reads:

Breakthrough Thinkng. “join the Club” provides some much needed thinking for Social Workers and others interested in making a difference – especially in such difficult economic and anti-social policy times.

Ms. Rosenburg has explored a number of social problems, both domestic and international and explored how the “social cure,” peer pressure as she defines it, can make positive changes. Domestically, the exploration of both teen smoking prevention and study groups for Calculus provide brilliant reporting. The use of professional thinking in marketing to engage teens is particularly helpful, and similar ideas to engage youth in political opposition to corporate manipulation in consumerism, worker exploitation, etc. spring easily to mind.

The international examples are also strong, with powerful stories in Indian, grass-roots health care, the empowerment of women and political action. She also examines the probable peer pressure factors in the success of micro-loans.

While for this reader the overly-long section on the use of groups in a protestant, suburban, mega-church doesn’t measure up to the other stories – this book is good food for thought for advocates everywhere.

I believe this book is extremely relevant to the work of grassroots activists aiming to build a national movement in the United States. The chapter on the overthrow of Milosevic in Yugoslavia is of particular interest.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.