[UCP Books]: Action versus Contemplation by Jennifer Summit and Blakey Vermeuele

Is it better to keep up?

Or keep sane?

To do?

Or to be?


“A fascinating and inspiring tour of big ideas—worth both contemplating and acting on.

Sarah Bakewell, author of At the Existentialist Cafe


Action versus Contemplation

Why an Ancient Debate Still Matters

By Jennifer Summit and Blakey Vermeuele



Publication date: April 2, 2018  
International publication date: April 16, 2018 $25.00/£19.50




The struggle to find some quiet space amid the welter of news and bustle of everyday life seems as modern as anything. But the battle between the active and the contemplative lives has been fought for centuries, in the realms of ideas, art, literature, religion, and more. At a moment when it feels harder than ever to make time for ourselves, Action versus Contemplation offers a nuanced, accessible historical view of the problem—and in doing so helps us see a way out.


Action versus Contemplation brings a cooling sense of balance to a whole range of important and often highly polarized arguments about technology, work, education, and more. How liberating to discover that we don’t need to choose between nostalgia and philistinism, Captain Ludd and Dr. Pangloss. Even better, the authors give us not just historical elaborations of the theoretical complementarity of action and contemplation, but actual, already-existing examples of the middle position at work today. They show us that, no matter how ‘soulless’ society seems to become, meaning-seeking behavior does and always will continue.”

William Deresiewicz, author of Excellent Sheep


Jennifer Summit is interim provost and vice president for academic affairs at San Francisco State University. Blakey Vermeule is professor of English at Stanford University. They are available for interviews.



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