What IfThe New Age of AnxietyRoland Paulsen
This is not a self-help book. This is a societal-help book.
What if we are doing too little about the Covid-19 pandemic; What if I left my stove on and my house burns down; What if I’ve chosen the wrong partner? Asking “what if?” is our mind’s way of calculating risks, imagining things that may happen. According to Roland Paulsen, associate professor in Sociology at Lund University, we have now—on a collective level—developed an inability to live with that uncertainty.
When you are standing at a train station anywhere in the Western world, one in every ten people around you will be on anti-depressants. It wasn’t always like this – the number of people who have been diagnosed with depression globally has risen by almost 20% in the last decade, and anxiety and depression are number one on the WHO’s list of reasons for ill health in the world today. So what has changed? We are financially better off than we’ve ever been, have higher living standards than ever before, and still, we can’t seem to avoid rising anxiety levels and constantly asking ourselves: what if?
Written with clarity and passion, WHAT IF is as much a panorama of the cultural variations and historical evolution of anxiety, as it is an inspiring call to action to do something about this societal epidemic. Constantly fascinating, Paulsen takes us down the labyrinth of Max Weber’s ideas about disenchantment, ayahuasca trips as a measure of dampening anxiety, and politics as risk-aversion rather than ideological dreaming. Based on hundreds of studies, ground-breaking research, and personal, heart-breakingly honest interviews, Roland Paulsen has written a sociological study of anxiety in our time, which in its easily-accessible style is Gladwellian in nature.
‘Roland Paulsen certainly entertains… I find myself chuckling and laughing out loud whilst reading.’
— Dagens Nyheter
‘Some of these conversations are so charged and beautifully constructed that you can almost imagine that you’re reading a great novel.’
‘With entertaining anecdotes and steadfast eloquence, the text beams with pop-scientific bliss which most authors in the genre would certainly envy.’
— Värmlands Folkblad