Friday, October 22, 2010

Francesco Duina's "Winning"

Francesco Duina is associate professor and chair of the Sociology Department at Bates College, and visiting professor at the International Center for Business and Politics, Copenhagen Business School. His books include The Social Construction of Free Trade and Harmonizing Europe.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Winning: Reflections on an American Obsession, and reported the following:
We are in love with winning and fear losing. Winning and losing permeate every facet of our lives – from our education system to our pastimes to our foreign policy. Think about the fact that attacks on referees by angry parents at children’s sporting events are dramatically on the rise. Or that, in his State of the Union 2010 address, President Barack Obama forcefully stated, when reflecting on the growth and investments by countries such as India, China, and Germany, that “I do not accept second place for the United States of America.” Winning and losing are everywhere, and this book explores the very nature of those ideas, what we are really after as we struggle to win, why we care so much, whether winning can really make us happy, and the price we pay by adhering to such a competitive mindset.

On page 99, the reader will find herself in the very midst of this exploration. We are in chapter 6, and I am dissecting the multiple and quite contradictory ways in which a person in our society can attain the status of definitive or eternal winner. How, in our social mindset, does one become a real winner? I identify four paths: (1) winning consistently, (2) capping an apparently endless stream of losses with one major, triumphant victory, (3) winning big a few times despite some losses, (4) and losing incessantly but, in the process, exhibiting to the world a relentless and optimistic spirit that never gives up. The sort of winner each path generates is actually very distinct; those who witness their successes experience rather different emotions and feelings when facing each type. Much the same can be said of losers. We must understand each path, with all of its implications and subtleties.

Page 99 offers one glimpse of my larger exploration of the highly complex, incredibly consequential, and seldom understood mindset that we, Americans, bring to so much of what we do in our lives. It is time that we come to grips with that mindset – and that we decide, consciously and with clarity, how we really want to relate to the world, others, and ultimately ourselves.
Read an excerpt from Winning, and learn more about the book at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue