From Publishers Weekly
The huge success of self-help, according to McGee, rests on the fact that its practitioners seamlessly combine two conflicting goals, financial or outward success and religious or inner transcendence, claiming that you can eat your cake and have it, too. In a tone less caustic and more sociological than Steve Salerno's in SHAM
(Reviews, May 30), McGee, a sociologist and cultural critic at NYU, carefully demonstrates the fallacious underpinnings of this mindset, drawing from a deep well of quintessentially American resources ranging from Cotton Mather to Emerson and Max Weber. Self-help overemphasizes the individual's agency at the expense of the necessary reliance on or assistance of a network of others, and it can be sexist, too, says McGee. Women's rise in the workplace has revealed the "fault lines" in the image of the self-made man, who really depends on a wife to sustain his efforts. To McGee, it's such mendacity that lies at the core of the self-help project, for we cannot make ourselves. Fortunately, her gracefully written account is tinged with sympathy for the harried souls for whom "self-improvement is suggested as the only reliable insurance against economic insecurity" at a time when companies do not properly look after their workers. (Aug.)
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"Can reading Self-Help, Inc.
make you rich, successful and perpetually happy? No, but it'll entertain you and make you a whole lot smarter about American popular culture and the economic forces that shape it."--Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Bait and Switch
and Nickel and Dimed
"Elegantly written, brilliantly argued, and very important--a must read."--Arlie Russell Hochschild, author of The Time Bind
and The Commercialization of Intimate Life
"McGee writes clearly and thoughtfully.... She moves seamlessly from high theory to pop psychobabble, using the former to illustrate the powers of the latter. Overall, she offers a compelling argument for resisting the self-improvement genre's worldview. what comes through most clearly to me is a Marxist critique of consumer capitalism--like Raymond Williams for the 21st century."--Wendy Simonds, American Journal of Sociology
"McGee has revealed the self-help industry as an obsessional treadmill far more than a path to a better life....Self-Help, Inc.
offers a revealing look at the profound dissatisfactions that loiter beneath the topography of our consumer culture."--Stuart Ewen, author of PR!: A Social History of Spin