‘Standing Firm’ in the sense of this book means to counter the incessant drive towards more, more, more of everything. It’s a call to action to resist and stand firm against ‘improvement culture’, not just self-improvement and personal development, but also the constant acceleration and growth in our economic systems, and the overuse and destruction of our natural environment.
The idea of endless growth and improvement infuses every aspect of our lives and culture. This book points out the ways in which this insidious and ubiquitous philosophy of rampant individualism, consumerism and growth is damaging to us as individuals, our relationships with others in our lives and to the world at large.
Stand Firm is a companion book to a book that Brinkmann wrote later on called ‘The Joy of Missing Out’, which I have also reviewed on this blog.
Stand Firm, like Brinkmann’s other book The Joy of Missing Out, is a slender book that has a deceptively shallow sounding premise and simple title. This conceals the depths of this book which deep dives into a rabbit hole of philosophy, psychology, economics and more.
This is a clear, cleverly written and succinct book that tackles many of the big topics of our troubled times and reflects these issues back to us using a new lens – a perspective that shares a lot coincidental philosophical ideas with the ancient Roman Stoics: Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Cicero and Epictetus. Here are some similarities:
- This book is an antidote to all of the positive visualisation recommended in self-development books and courses. Brinkmann (along with the ancient Stoics long before) recommends negative visualisation – in other words, imagining what would happen if you lost everything you have. Therefore gaining a deep appreciation of what you do have.
- Instead of thinking in terms of all of the great things in your life and constant opportunities, the Stoics and Brinkmann recommend acknowledging and accepting the limitations placed on you.
- Rather than giving free rein to your feelings at all times, the Stoics and Brinkmann recommend that you learn self-discipline and sometimes suppress your feelings.
- Instead of avoiding thinking about death, you should contemplate your own mortality in order to nurture gratitude for the life you are living.
This is an amazing book and I recommend it whole-heartedly to you. 5*/5.
Svend Brinkmann is a Danish Professor of Psychology in the Department of Communication and Psychology at Aalborg University, Denmark. He serves as a co-director of the Centre for Qualitative Studies. He is the author of ‘The Joy of Missing Out’ and ‘Stand Firm.’