January Book Update
A bit of accountability, an opportunity for feedback, and whatever else you all throw in....
Happy New Year!
I’m starting each month with an update on how the larger book project is coming along. I’m doing this for three reasons:
As someone with a bit of a monkey brain, I work best with accountability. Knowing that I have to provide updates keeps me on track and also prevents me from being distracted by shiny objects in my immediate vicinity.
These posts are also an opportunity for feedback as the book develops. While I’ve been thinking about the concept of moderation for a very long time, there are undoubtedly facets I’m not aware of or just angles I’m missing. I would love to hear from readers on what they think is most important. I also take requests for hot-takes on particular news items, etc (see more possibilities below).
Finally, it’s a good way to organize my own thoughts and do some meta-thinking on the project itself.
So here goes!
Overall, things are going well. The book right now consists of three sections, with multiple chapters per section. I may tweak all this later if the organization stops working for me, but right now it seems to be a decent way of packaging these ideas.
The first half of the book looks at how we got to our radically immoderate present and why it matters. In this section I tackle the main causes of immoderation and polarization in the world, focusing on various cognitive biases and how these biases are triggered and exacerbated by the structure of modern life. Each chapter is a pairing of a radically immoderate error and its radically moderate counterpart.
This section has chapters on:
Simplicity bias (RadMod counterpart: respect for complexity)
Corner-solution thinking (RadMod counterpart: tradeoffs exist)
Certainty (RadMod counterpart: humility)
Fear of Difference/the Unknown (RadMod counterparts: social individualism and pluralism)
Ideological thinking (RadMod counterpart: human beings matter)
So far, I have drafts of the chapters on complexity, tradeoffs, and social individualism and am drafting the chapter on humility this week.
The second half focuses on immoderation in practice, delving into what ails us in the areas of politics, religion, public policy, and daily life (everything from parenting to nutrition to exercise to healthcare).
I haven’t started drafting this section so who knows what it will turn into, though I have blog posts on a lot of these issues; you can scroll back to see what it might end up looking like. Part of what’s fun about this book is that I can pull from examples I use in class all the time and I’m less tied to the scholarly literature, both of which make for a more spontaneous writing process.
Part three is a shorter section that focuses on building a moderate future together. It’ll summarize some of the lessons from previous chapters about how we can cultivate moderation both individually and culturally/societally. It’ll also discuss when, if ever, moderation isn’t the right answer.
Structurally, I’m trying to balance both theoretical and the practical explanations and individual and the societal solutions. I’d like the book to resonate with people who want more structural/societal explanations as well as people who are looking for practical advice for their own daily lives. We’ll see how I do at threading that needle, but so far I think it’s working ok.
How you can help
I’d love reader input! Throw me ideas in the comments (or via email or messenger) on any of the following or other things I haven’t thought of yet. Ideas include:
News stories you’d like a radically moderate take on.
Cultural or social or political phenomena that you think help clarify or illuminate the importance of radical moderation.
Exceptions to radically moderate rules. Are there times when you think radical moderation doesn’t or can’t apply?
(Kind) disagreement. You think I’m way off base? Let me know why! Books get better with thoughtful interlocutors poking the weak spots. Poke away!
Offers to read chapters and provide feedback are always appreciated. If there’s a particular chapter you’d like to preview, just let me know.
Anything else you come up with!
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