Thursday, June 01, 2006

Give (the) piece a chance?

If you have the patience for scholarly research and writing--and I'll confess that even I seldom do, despite the considerable legwork that went into SHAM as well as my own background in college-level teaching--here's a very well-done, painstakingly sourced article about some of the deeper sociological issues raised by (or on the periphery of) the self-help movement. Like other academics who've addressed the topic, the author, Australian psychology professor Doris McIlwain, takes me to task here and there for leaps of faith in some of my broader, inferential arguments. Thing is, I've never flinched away from the fact that I intended SHAM more as a launching point for discussion than as the be-all-and-end-all of societal biographies. What I hoped to accomplish was to at least provoke people to question the knee-jerk assumptions (about confidence, about empowerment, about the importance of goal-setting, etc.) that drive so much of the individual behavior in this country, and have even been embraced institutionally (e.g. the disastrous self-esteem movement in schools). But those who crave an in-depth discussion of SHAM's psycho-anthropological underpinnings might want to give this piece a try....

2 comments:

Rodger Johnson said...

That article is interesting - at least the first part. I'll get to the second tomorrow morning while I'm exercising.

The rhetorical values of SHAM -- the movement, not the book -- lends itself to a heavy doping of marketing and advertising techniques to communicate a particular message.

What's more, I've just finished reading the mother of all self-help books - The Handbook of NLP.

From this book anyone can glean some new idea and create an angle from which to write a self-help book. The bottom line, however, and I think you have made this point several times - or at least someone has - that no amount of self-help will be helpful to someone who either has no will to be helped, or does not have the capacity to impliment the help they need.

Or, like AA that focuses too much on the problem and not enough on the solution -- stop drinking in excess -- keeps the individual in a perpetual state of vulnerability, which is wher the SHAM guru wants his followers.

Guarantees a steady stream of income to pay the bills, right?

Beth said...

Some of this is getting a bit airy. Personally I liked it better when you were going after Dr. Phil.