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The Self-Help Industry Dulls American

 article about self-help
2017-08-01 09:23:54

This article belongs to Self-help theme.

The American self-help industry sells one main message in a myriad of forms: you have a problem. In a time when the economy is in shambles, many lack health care insurance while the CEOs of corporations make top dollar. The truth is that self help books don't work. The current situation keeps people focused on themselves and not the structural problems that plague the U.S.

Right now there are 151,656 titles in the self-help category of, a 67 percent increase from last year.
While the self-help industry peddles its books, CDs, DVDs and seminars, the disparity between the richest and the working class continues to widen. According to a Federal Reserve Study, the top ten percent of wage earners in America own seventy percent of the wealth, and the top five percent own more than the bottom ninety-five percent. The ratio of CEO to worker pay was 431 to 1 in 2004, up from 301 to 1 in 2003. The average CEO's pay is $11.8 million a year, while the average worker is $27,460.

The self-help industry is a big money-maker. According to American Writers and Artists Inc. (AWAI) , it "grows steadily, year after year," and presently there are 151,656 titles in the self-help category of, a 67 percent increase from last year. AWAI cites a statistic from a self-help watch dog group: in 2006 Americans spent $11 billion on self-help products. In 2005 Americans spent $9.6 billion.

Tracing the self-help industry
When did the self-help industry begin? In Steven Starker's book Oracle at the Supermarket: The American Preoccupation with Self-Help he states that the roots of the self-help industry come from the Puritans. Starker says self-help is "an essential part of American culture."

The problem is within you.
One article in claims that the self-help industry began in 1936 when Dale Carnegie published his book How to Win Friends and Influence People. However, Steve Salerno, author of SHAM: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless, traces it back to the book I'm Okay, You're Okay. In 1967 the U.S. was embroiled in the Vietnam War. "This was the extreme victimization method," Salerno says. "It was trying to console people - "it's not your fault, it's not anybody's fault. We're all just pawns in a hostile universe." At the time, there was a lot of doom and nihilism, and this was a very potent message.

In an article for the British newspaper The Independent, Johann Hari said that the "rise of self-help" coincided with the "decline of faith in collective political solutions." Hari labels the self-help industry as "a reactionary response to economic stresses beyond the control of citizens sitting at home alone." Hari points out that a sense of "economic anxiety" has been a part of the U.S. since the 1950s, and the past eight years of the Bush administration "have been a time of declining relative incomes even as the super-rich soar off into the stratosphere." The whole time the self-help industry "has been there with a simple message: the problem is within you."

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