Envy was first published in German in 1966, then in an English translation in 1970. This classic study is one of the few books to explore extensively the many facets of envy--"a drive which lies at the core of man's life as a social being." Ranging widely over literature, philosophy, psychology, and the social sciences, Professor Schoeck--a distinguished sociologist and anthropologist--elucidates both the constructive and destructive consequences of envy in social life. Perhaps most importantly he demonstrates that not only the impetus toward a totalitarian regime but also the egalitarian impulse in democratic societies are alike in being rooted in envy.
“The utopian desire for an egalitarian society cannot, however, have sprung from any other motive than that of an inability to come to terms with one’s own envy, and/or with the supposed envy of one’s less well-off fellow men. It must be obvious how such a man, even if only prompted by his unconscious, would carefully evade the phenomenon of envy or try to belittle it!” ― Helmut Schoeck, Envy
Envy’s combination of thorough scholarship and dispassionate, readable style lends its arguments compelling weight and makes it the best treatment of envy available. A smashing refutation of egalitarianism’s view of human nature and its utopian delusions, Envy is a must for all friends of liberty and civilization. His care in arguing envy’s positive aspects renders Schoeck impervious to charges of polemicism. Hence his criticisms of envy and his foreboding observations about modern times are all the more powerful. Widespread study of Envy would do much to combat the evils of its subject, and hopefully lead many to concur in its conclusion: "The time has surely come when we should stop behaving as though the envious man was the main criterion for economic and social policy." - John Attarian
Helmut Schoeck (1922-1993) was an Austrian-German sociologist and writer, best known for his work "Envy. A Theory of Social Behaviour" (Der Neid. Eine Theorie der Gesellschaft).
Schoeck, born in Graz, spent his early years in Baden-Württemberg, finishing high school in Ludwigsburg. He then studied medicine, philosophy and psychology at the universities of Munich and Tubingen. With a dissertation on Karl Mannheim, Schoeck would obtain his doctorate under Eduard Spranger.
For fifteen years, starting in 1950, Schoeck would work as a professor at various U.S. universities. In 1953, he taught philosophy at Fairmont State College, followed by a two-year stint at Yale. At Emory University he was awarded a full professorship in sociology. During the 1950s, Schoeck published some works in German, and translated Joachim Wach's Sociology of Religion into German.
In 1965, Schoeck returned to Germany, where he obtained a chair in sociology at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, which he would occupy until his retirement in 1990.
Schoeck gained international fame with his book Der Neid. Eine Theorie der Gesellschaft (Envy. A Theory of Social Behaviour), which was published in 1966 (the English translation appeared in 1969). Written without a great deal of technical jargon, the book would receive widespread appreciation, even outside the academic community. The book became something of a best-seller, and was translated into more than ten languages.
A polemicist against the New Left movements of the 1960s, Schoeck citicized their ideas from a conservative-liberal viewpoint. The egalitarian and anti-capitalist mentality of the leftish generation was the especial target of Schoeck's attacks.
Schoeck, who was also a columnist of the Welt am Sonntag for twenty years, died of cancer in 1993.