How to Be a Failure and Still Live Well: A Philosophy (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

If there is such a thing as a perfect book to read during CoVid19, this is it because we are all, in different ways, facing failures. A lot of us have lost jobs, incomes, plans for the future. Some of us have lost even more. And through this we've all been forced to re-assess who we are, what's important to us, how we are going to live our lives, and what's the plan now that the board has to be wiped clean. Clack addresses the things that make us anxious: our sense of worth being tied to our economics, at a time when unemployment is at a record high; how ageing and our imminent deaths are fears we avoiding confronting in a time when age is a major factor in whether or not an infection is deadly, and where death tolls rise around us; how we forget that we are connected to one another, and that the universe is beyond our control, as we try to contain a viral pandemic by staying apart.
Written in January of this year, there's no way Clack could have known how important her work would be in this time. But it's critical to understand how to get through loss and failure, how to understand our brief place in the chaos of the world, and learn that we can move on and forward into an unknown future. — Katelynne Shimkus


In consumer economies, success has increasingly been defined in terms of material attainment and the achievement of status. This model of 'the good life' and its formulas for success ignore the haunting possibility that one may not succeed and as a result be deemed 'a failure'. How to be a Failure and Still Live Well explores that often neglected theme of failure, not just as the opposite of achievement, but also, and more importantly, how it has been conflated with loss: that which haunts all transient, mortal human experience.

Understanding loss as a form of failure affects our ability to cope with the everyday losses that permeate existence as a result of the natural processes of ageing, death, and decay. Engaging with loss and thinking about what it inevitability means for our lives and commitments, allows different values to emerge than those connected to success as attainment. Relationships, spontaneity, and generosity are explored as qualities that arise from taking seriously our vulnerability and that form the basis for richer accounts of what it might mean to 'live well'.

About the Author

Beverley Clack is Professor in the Philosophy of Religion at Oxford Brookes University. Her publications include: Interrogating the Neoliberal Lifecycle: The Limits of Success, co-edited with Michele Paule (2019); Philosophy of Religion: A Critical Introduction, co-authored with Brian R Clack (3rd edition 2019); Freud on the Couch (2013); Feminist Philosophy of Religion: Critical Readings, co-edited with Pamela Sue Anderson (2004); Sex and Death: A Reappraisal of Human Mortality (2002); and Misogyny in the Western Philosophical Tradition (1999). From 2012-16 she was City Councillor for St Clements Ward in Oxford, and from 2016-2018 she was a member of the Labour Party's National Policy Forum. She is a member of the Methodist Church's Faith and Order Committee, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

Product Details
ISBN: 9781350030695
ISBN-10: 1350030694
Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic
Publication Date: January 23rd, 2020
Pages: 264
Language: English