(Crisis Publications, $19 USD, 291 pages)
Anne Hendershott’s volume is a much-needed and overdue examination of the cultural and political implications of envy. A culture of covetousness is promoted by advertisers hocking goods and politicians seeking voters, and most of us do not understand that it is one of the deadly sins being evoked when these salesmen are operating. Envy fuels anger which sometimes leads to violence. From mobs in the street vandalizing stores to the online mob cancelling the holders of unpopular views, envy is often unleashed (often deliberately), stirring base emotions that lead to no good. Hendershott explores the Marxist roots of much of this envy and how social media is set up to create a false sense of intimacy that excites passions much too easily. A lot of racial identity politics, gussied up as anti-racism, is actually race-based envy, and the violence of the Black Lives Matter riots of 2020 attest to that for those with eyes to see. Hendershott says “as (Rene) Girard points out, novels by Dostoyevsky, Flaubert, Proust, Stendhal, Cervantes, and others are most useful to demonstrate the terrible trauma caused by envious rivalries.” Of course, such envy is dangerous to the soul of the individual. When it is mass-marketed and mass-politicked, it ensnares ever more victims.