A Journey through America’s Self-Help Culture

Monday, January 06, 2014

Jessica Lamb-Shapiro talks about growing up immersed in the culture of self-help as the daughter of a widowed child psychologist and parenting author. In Promise Land: My Journey through America’s Self-Help Culture she looks at the many self-help options out there and whether they can deliver what they promise.


Jessica Lamb-Shapiro

Comments [3]

Estelle from Brooklyn

I found a copy of Final Exit in the self-help section at Barnes and Noble.

Jan. 06 2014 01:59 PM

We are Personal Beasties were inspired while making our BREATHING app, ( by the more feminist perspective on Self Help provided by Micki McGee's 2005 'Self Help Inc.'.

In her book Professor McGee shows how the rise of makeover culture has left Americans not just overworked, but #belabored—constantly at work on themselves, anxious to remain employed and employable.

Jan. 06 2014 01:59 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

The word "Self Help" was the title of a very popular 1859 tome published in Victorian England and written by Samuel Smiles. It sold some 250,000 copies versus 40,000 of Darwin's "Origin of Species" published in the same year. The book "Self-Help" was probably only second to the Bible in popularity in Victoria's England. It basically is a compendium of rags to riches stories, as well as stories of great families which came crashing down, showing upward and downward mobility. The point was to preach that even the very poor can "make it" if they are determined to pull themselves up by their bootstraps,and that savings can be made if the poor would only give up alcohol, be abstemious, hardworking, innovative, etc.
Smiles himself was ultimately ruined by greedy in-laws who were hanger-ons who took advantage of his beneficent nature and smiley nature. His philosophy of "Self-Help" began to decline with the rise of socialism in the 1880s and he died in 1903 vitually penniless.

Jan. 06 2014 12:08 PM

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