Book Review: Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

It’s been quite a while since I’ve finished this book, but I put off writing a review until now. And really, this will not be so much a review as comments predicated by the book. This book is not a light read. While the main gist is intuitive and easy to grasp, some parts of the book are quite technical and dense. Generally speaking though, it was an excellent book.

The concept of antifragility is something that gets stronger through uncertainty, disorder, or abuse. Think, for example, Christianity: the blood of the martyrs was the seed from which more believers sprang up. While the robust withstands insult, the antifragile is improved by it. Although Taleb does not really get into it in the book, I believe that the concept of antifragility is especially suited to discussing masculinity and manliness.

Manliness is the ultimate example of antifragilty. It thrives in chaos and disorder, and atrophies in peace and safety. Even today, the enclaves of manliness that exist are inexricably tied to increased danger and chaos. Thus, increasing antifragility will also increase masculinity. This is a fundamental concept missing in many modern analyses of masculinity–we think that we can preserve manliness somehow while simultaneously eliminating the chaos and danger that it thrives on. People lament “Peter-Pan man-boys,” but cheer the safety and stability that caused them.

Jack Donovan is one of the few who understand this, saying: “Manliness requires the opportunity for risk, and those opportunities are decreasing in our highly controlled, pacified society. Men need chaos to restart the world.” In fact, reading Donovan’s The Way of Men and Taleb’s Antifragile together makes the link between masculinity and antifragility very clear.

Chaos can not be held down forever. The longer it is held down, the more masculinity will decline, and the fewer men will be prepared to meet it when it rises again.

Leave a Comment