Delusions of Normality

Sanity, Drugs, Sex, Money
and Beliefs in America

J.P. Harpignies

ISBN: 978-1-887276-50-4 • $ 14.95

All of us compare ourselves to others and wonder how we fit in, and if we are “normal.” Delusions of Normality has the potential to catalyze conversations and debate about very visceral issues such as sex, drugs, money, sanity, and how we see the world. While aspects of this topic have been written about in other contexts, no other book reflects about so many core aspects of our psychosocial life to eloquently expose the chasm between our stated norms and the realities on the ground.

In Delusions of Normality: Sanity, Drugs, Sex, Money and Beliefs in America, J. P. Harpignies argues convincingly that many of the unspoken assumptions underlying our media’s discourse about our society are at serious odds with the reality of our lives. Delusions of Normality offers a bracing but entertaining look at some of the darker corners of American life, providing a corrective lens to our rose-colored myopia about how we really are. It offers compelling evidence that we are collectively far less sane, far more corruptible, and far ‘druggier’, kinkier and zanier than we generally admit. Educators, social scientists, therapists and the merely curious, take note.


(from the introduction)

Why then, if we indeed live in a fairly loose, by and large less restrictive era, devote a whole book to analyzing the fallacies surrounding certain current norms? Seeking to expose hypocrisies in the Victorian era, or even the 1950s might perhaps have made some sense, one might argue, but what is there to reveal now in a culture that seems shameless about publicly exposing even its most grotesque features?

The answer is that while we have indeed made strides in tolerance and openness in many areas, we still live with unspoken assumptions and unexamined, or weakly examined, attitudes in a wide range of key spheres of life, and I have long felt driven to scrutinize more closely at least some of them. I have no precise overall prescriptive goal in mind, and I have to admit that I embark upon this project with some ambivalence. I realize that the human condition dictates that every individual, every society, and every subculture inevitably has to operate with a range of unconscious assumptions and implicit norms, and I can’t say I’m absolutely sure that digging into everything is invariably a good idea. Just as most individuals seem to require an inflated sense of their own self-worth to carry on without getting demoralized, perhaps societies too require the sanitized, exaggerated, mythologized sense of their virtues they all seem to insist on projecting, and some of the things I am choosing to examine may be disturbing to look at, and probing them may not necessarily help us in any tangible way. After all, the truth is not always productive in personal life or in politics. People who insist on telling the truth at all times are the stuff of silly comedy (or, in real life, are not infrequently murdered or executed).

Nonetheless, one of the most important missions of the social sciences and of cultural analysis (and of art and literature in their own ways) is to seek to present as accurate a picture of societies as possible, warts and all. Whether they ultimately turn out to be productive or subversive should not deter attempts to arrive at more honest appraisals of our psychosocial reality. I have to believe that, ultimately, the more penetrating analyses of a broad gamut of our attitudes and institutions there are, the better. And anyway, in this case I feel drawn to the topic and can’t resist the urge to stir up some of these murky waters.


J.P. Harpignies is a Brooklyn, NY-based consultant, conference producer, copy editor and writer. He is the author of several non-fiction books, including Double Helix Hubris (1997), Political Ecosystems (2004), and Delusions of Normality (2009); co-writer of The Magic Carpet Ride (2011); editor of the collection, Visionary Plant Consciousness (2007); and associate editor of the first two Bioneers books: Ecological Medicine and Nature’s Operating Instructions.

He has also been the associate producer of the Bioneers Conference ( since the early 1990s; co-founded the Eco-Metropolis Conference (2004/05); has served as a senior member of the Buckminster Fuller Challenge ( review team since 2011; and was formerly a program director at the New York Open Center (in the early/mid 1990s). JP also taught t’ai chi chuan in Brooklyn for 25 years.

JP Harpignies