The Lonely Century Book Summary - The Lonely Century Book explained in key points
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The Lonely Century summary

Noreena Hertz

How Isolation Imperils Our Future

4.2 (159 ratings)
22 mins

Brief summary

The Lonely Century by Noreena Hertz explores how loneliness is becoming an epidemic in the 21st century due to changes in technology, family, and work, and provides solutions to tackle this issue.

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    The Lonely Century
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    The Lonely Century has been fueled by neoliberal capitalism.

    Most of us know what it’s like to feel lonely. But would loneliness ever drive you to commit a crime?

    It may sound improbable, but consider Japan’s Tochigi prison. Over the last 20 years, the number of older prisoners there has quadrupled. Why? Well, elderly women, most over the age of 65, have been committing minor offenses in order to escape solitude for the company and care of fellow inmates.

    But it’s not only the elderly who have been feeling more lonely. Across Europe, the United States, and Australia, the rate of loneliness among 15-year-olds has also been on the rise. And even before the coronavirus pandemic, one in five millennials claimed to have no friends at all.

    It’s clear that the Lonely Century isn’t a generational problem. And the loneliness we’re experiencing isn’t just about feeling unheard or unseen by friends or family. It’s also about feeling unsupported by our employers, community, and government. 

    The key message here is: The Lonely Century has been fueled by neoliberal capitalism.

    In the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan pushed forward a political project called neoliberal capitalism, or neoliberalism. It called for governments to minimize their interference in markets, as well as people’s personal affairs. The project also championed self-reliance, small government, and market competition. Communal values and the collective good were less of a priority.

    Over the past four decades, neoliberalism has created an immense increase in wealth gaps. In 1989, American CEOs made 58 times more than an average worker. By 2018, this gap had grown nearly fivefold. 

    As a result, large parts of the population now feel left behind. The system has, by and large, corroded our ability to provide for our families or maintain our status in society. But poverty doesn’t only make us feel marginalized; it also puts us at a higher risk of loneliness. 

    Neoliberalism has literally affected how we relate to one another. Decades of hyper-competitiveness have shifted our collective values. For many, solidarity and kindness now play second fiddle to the pursuit of self-interest. This “every man for himself” attitude makes us less inclined to help the people in our community. As a result, more and more people are ending up feeling isolated.

    Our new, super-individualistic neoliberal mindset is even reflected in pop songs. In 1977, David Bowie sang that “we could be heroes.” But in the twenty-first century, singers increasingly use first-person pronouns – just think of Kanye West’s “I am a God.”

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    What is The Lonely Century about?

    The Lonely Century (2021) explores the loneliness that characterizes the twenty-first century. Drawing on a decade of research, it reveals how neoliberal policies, new technologies, and mass migration to cities have contributed to us becoming so lonely – and what shifts need to occur for us to reconnect.

    The Lonely Century Review

    The Lonely Century (2020) explores the rising epidemic of loneliness in our digital age and provides insights on how to reconnect with others. Here's what makes this book worth reading:

    • With thought-provoking research and interviews, it sheds light on the societal and psychological impacts of loneliness, offering a deeper understanding of the issue.
    • It presents practical strategies for individuals, communities, and policymakers to combat loneliness and build stronger social connections.
    • The book challenges our assumptions and offers fresh perspectives on the way we lead our lives, encouraging us to rethink our relationships and prioritize human connection.

    Best quote from The Lonely Century

    Statistically, loneliness is the equivalent to smoking fifteen cigarettes a day. 

    —Noreena Hertz
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    Who should read The Lonely Century?

    • Isolated individuals interested in understanding our current crisis of loneliness
    • Political thinkers who want to understand the roots of far-right movements
    • Community leaders looking for ways to bring people together

    About the Author

    Noreena Hertz is an English academic, economist, author, and host of the Sirius XM show MegaHerz: London Calling. Named by the Observer as “one of the world’s leading thinkers,” she has published opinion pieces in publications including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and the Guardian. She has a PhD from Cambridge University and an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

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    The Lonely Century FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Lonely Century?

    In The Lonely Century, Noreena Hertz explores the global loneliness crisis and offers practical solutions for connection and community.

    How long does it take to read The Lonely Century?

    The estimated reading time for The Lonely Century is several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Lonely Century a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Lonely Century is a thought-provoking and insightful read. It provides a unique perspective on the impact of loneliness and offers potential ways to alleviate it.

    Who is the author of The Lonely Century?

    The author of The Lonely Century is Noreena Hertz.

    What to read after The Lonely Century?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Lonely Century, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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