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Everyone's a Winner: Life in Our Congratulatory Culture    by Joel Best Amazon.com order for
Everyone's a Winner
by Joel Best
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University of California, 2011 (2011)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

Joel Best, Professor of Sociology at the University of Delaware, writes that we are a society that freely passes out praise and superlatives. 'Americans have a global reputation for being full of ourselves,' he explains. 'We chant, 'U.S.A. - Number One! U.S.A. Number One!' We confidently describe our country as the world's greatest, its sole superpower. But self-congratulation is far more than a matter of national pride. It is a theme that runs through our contemporary society.'

In Everyone's A Winner: Life in Our Congratulatory Culture, Best investigates Americans' contemporary readiness to praise and to celebrate their own accomplishments.

He asks why are we so ready to pass out prizes and congratulate one another and, more to the point, perhaps, what are the consequences of this self-congratulatory culture?

Since awards, prizes and honors are a form of social status, the first step in answering these questions is to how status works in general. Status or 'how much prestige, esteem, respect, or honor one receives from others' is related to how one is perceived in one's particular social group or social world.

Although economic affluence, leisure time, and information are important factors in determining one's participation in a given social group, honors, awards, rankings, and ratings can help determine the person's status within the group.

In the middle chapters of this book the author looks closely at prize proliferation, the way we honor students, why we designated some individuals everyday heroes, and how the need to rank and rate things like schools, hospitals, cars and a host of things has nearly become a national obsession.

The case for status inflation can be simply made by looking at the prizes we award for mystery fiction. In 1946 the Mystery Writers of America began awarding Edgar Awards for outstanding mystery or detective fiction. That first year four trophies were handed out, but today that number has expanded to twelve categories and five special achievement awards.

Since then, more groups have also elected to give out honors and awards so that in the U.S. and Great Britain today there are well over 100 passed out to deserving writers for this type of fiction.

Being invited to play in a post season bowl game was a special honor received by just a few college football teams. Given honors inflation, the number has gone from just a handful of games originally to 23 games in 1999 and 34 games in 2009. Now more than half the teams in the top division get bowl invitations!

Best also addresses the charges that some individuals have made that we are creating too many of these awards while also presenting the opposite side of the coin. There are those who feel that we need to increase the number to enhance individual self-esteem.

Anyone interested in this topic will find this book not only very readable but also quite balanced in how the issue is presented. No matter how you feel about this interesting phenomena, you'll discover this a very entertaining read. It certainly deserves a blue ribbon, at the least, or perhaps a number one rating!

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