I am impressed with the article carrying the same title as this post and written by David Brooks in today's New York Times. I quote
"...It emphasizes how profoundly we are shaped by relationships with others, but it's not one of those stifling, collectivist theories that puts the community above the individual.
It exposes the errors of those Ayn Rand individualists who think that success is something they achieve through their own genius and will-power.
It exposes the fallacy of New Age narcissists who believe they can find their true, authentic self by burrowing down into their inner being. There is no self that exists before society.
It explains why it's so hard to tackle concentrated poverty. Human beings are permeable. The habits that are common in underclass areas get inside the brains of those who grow up there and undermine long-range thinking and social trust.
It illuminates the dangers of believing that there is a universal hunger for liberty. That universal hunger may exist in the abstract, but we're embedded creatures and the way specific individuals perceive liberty depends on the context.
It lampoons political zealotry. You may be a flaming liberal in New York, but its likely you'd be a flaming conservative if you grew up in Wyoming."
"..In the information age, it seems fitting that we'd see people bonded by communication. It's not exactly new to say that no man is an island. But Hofstadter is one of hundreds of scientists and scholars showing how interconnectedness actually works. What's being described is a vast web of information - some contained in genes, some in brain structure, some in the flow of dinner conversation - that joins us to our ancestors and reminds the living of the presence of the dead."