Book Review: Join The Club by Tina Rosenberg

Join - Rosenberg

Join the Club

By Tina Rosenberg

My Rating: 3 Stars

I’ve always been fascinated with the concept of peer pressure.  I have a tendency to think of myself as someone who doesn’t allow themselves to be pressured by the group.  My need to fit in hasn’t been allowed to keep me from doing what my conscience says is the right thing to do even if there is a price to pay.  Peer pressure is often thought of as taking the easy road.  Roads that stray from the rest of the group have always been considered the hard road.   What makes this book such a fascinating read is that Rosenberg looks at peer pressure from both a positive and negative aspect.  Which is contrary to how we normally view peer pressure.

When I was in high school, I ran across a news article in the local newspaper that referred  to peer pressure as “evil companions.”  I believe the article said that “evil companions” was an old phrase used for the more commonly known term “peer pressure”.  My 17 year old self found this antiquated term to be both fascinating and hilariously funny.  So fascinating that I cut the article out and took it to school  and shared it with my group of friends.  We found it to be such a great term that we had it made into t-shirts for all of us.  They read “Evil Companions” across the back and on the front we had Summer ’93 printed.  I loved that t-shirt.  We all did.  At the time, I think we thought of peer pressure as this term used to place blame for bad behavior.  It was an excuse that parents used to justify our actions as teens.  Blame it on the friends and the individual isn’t guilty.  But looking back at it now, I may not have realized it but I think we found it so amusing because we were lucky to belong to a group that didn’t pressure at all.  We were accepted as we were.  We weren’t expected to dress a certain way, like certain things, or listen to specific music.  We varied immensely and that is what made our group so great.  To us, the whole concept of peer pressure was a farce.  In hindsight, being able to do what we wanted and not be judged was what made those the greatest friends I’ve ever had.  And when I say this, I mean it.  I’ve met thousands of people in my 20 years since high school and I’ve found few people that sit at the level of my friends from high school.  To this day, we remain vastly different in many ways but we are all still friends.  We value each other for our differences still to this day.

Tina Rosenberg, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for The Haunted Land is back with another fascinating book.  Join the Club: How Peer Pressure can Transform the World takes a close look at social change and how powerful it can be in the mindset of the individual and the collective soul of a group.

Throughout this book, Rosenberg delves into specific examples of social pressure and evaluates how it influences the individual and the group.  She looks at how an individual’s base need to belong, can so strongly influence their actions even at the detriment to their health, safety and well-being.  But she also shows how their need to belong to the group can lead them down positive roads as well.

My Thoughts

This book was nothing like I thought it would be.  I expected it to view peer pressure from an entirely negative perspective.  Since peer pressure is most often presented in a highly negative light, it’s an assumption I think many readers would have when delving into this book.  But Rosenberg doesn’t entirely place her focus on the negative when it comes to this social perspective.  Rather, she chooses to look at peer pressure in terms of a means of achieving social change.  That change could be bad but it could also be good.  By looking at how peer pressure can be both good and bad for an individual and a group she successfully shows how something that seems so simple or unimportant can actually instigate significant social change when done correctly.

I found most of Rosenberg’s examples to be a fascinating look at how social change is happening for the better.   While some, I’m not sure I would define as “peer pressure” in terms of what I’ve always believed this phrase to mean, they are solid examples of how effective “change” campaigns can be useful in society to curb behavior, to educate and to persuade individuals to think and do differently.

I did however, find one of Rosenberg’s arguments to be stretching.  I had issues with her arguments concerning terrorism.  I simply could not wrap my head around her argument and allow myself to think the way she was suggesting.  Perhaps I felt like there was more too it. That the idea and problem of terrorism as a movement was presented in too simple of terms for my liking.  For whatever reason, it’s the one part of the book I simply did not agree with.  I felt like it was one area where “peer pressure” simply couldn’t be blamed as the culprit.  I wanted more from Rosenberg on this subject and I just didn’t get it.

Having read this book, I look back on my group of friends with new light and perspective and realize now that the pressure of my group was to be accepting and open-minded.  To value difference.  Positive peer-pressure that had a profound affect on me as an adult and allowed me to become a productive member of society who is accepting of differences in a group and recognizes how differences can do great things for the group as a whole and the individuals within the group.   Here I was thinking that I was never pressured.  I was, just not negatively.  I was lucky enough to find positive peer pressure during a time when my peers had great influence on me as an individual and the adult I would eventually become.

Overall, this was an interesting read.  Since I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of peer pressure I’m glad to have read it.  While it didn’t necessarily look at peer pressure as I have always thought of it, it was eye opening and allowed me to think of it in different terms.  I always enjoy books that make me look at something from a different perspective, especially if it successfully expands my view and understanding of the subject.


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