The Good Enough Life


Today’s book is: The Good-Enough Life (Princeton UP, 2022) by Avram Alpert. We live in a world oriented toward greatness, one in which we feel compelled to be among the wealthiest, most powerful, and most famous. This book explains why no one truly benefits from this competitive social order, and reveals how another way of life is possible—a good-enough life for all. Dr. Alpert shows how our obsession with greatness results in stress and anxiety, damage to our relationships, widespread political and economic inequality, and destruction of the natural world. He describes how to move beyond greatness to create a society in which everyone flourishes. By competing less with each other, each of us can find renewed meaning and purpose, have our material and emotional needs met, and begin to lead more leisurely lives. Alpert makes no false utopian promises, however. Life can never be more than good enough because there will always be accidents and tragedies beyond our control, which is why we must stop dividing the world into winners and losers and ensure that there is a fair share of decency and sufficiency to go around.

Visionary and provocative, The Good-Enough Life demonstrates how we can work together to cultivate a good-enough life for all instead of tearing ourselves apart in a race to the top of the social pyramid.

Our guest is: Dr. Avram Alpert, a writer and teacher. He is currently a research fellow at The New Institute, Hamburg. He previously taught at Princeton and Rutgers Universities. He is the author of three books, most recently The Good Enough Life. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Aeon.

Our host is: Dr. Christina Gessler, a historian of women and gender.

Listeners to this episode may also be interested in:

  • A Partial Enlightenment: What Modern Literature and Buddhism Can Teach Us about Living Well without Perfection, by Avram Alpert
  • Global Origins of the Modern Self, from Montaigne to Suzuki, by Avram Alpert
  • How to Human: An Incomplete Manual for Living in a Mess-up World, by Alice Connor
  • Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving, by Celeste Headlee

Welcome to The Academic Life! Join us each week, where we learn directly from experts. We embrace the broad definition of what it means to lead an academic life, and are informed and inspired by today’s knowledge-producers working inside and outside the academy.

Your Host

Christina Gessler

Dr. Christina Gessler is the creator, show host, and producer of the Academic Life podcast. She holds a PhD in U.S. history.
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