Contemporary Self-Help Literature: An Analysis from the Perspective of Governementality Studies

  • Milan Urošević Institute for Philosophy and Social Theory, University of Belgrade, Serbia
Keywords:
self-help literature, Foucault, neoliberalism, technologies of the self, subjectivity, governmentality studies

Abstract

In this paper we will be analyzing contemporary self-help literature through the lens of what is usually called “governmentality studies”. These studies originate in the thought of Michel Foucault therefore we will begin our paper by presenting his theoretical framework for analyzing governmentality. The concept of the “dispositif” will be explained as a network of power relations aimed at governing individuals. “Subjection” is a concept we wil be using and it will be explained as a process of making individuals a part of a dispositif. Also the concept of “subjectivity” will be used, defined as a relation that an individual has with himself through which he governs himself and the concept of “technologies of the self” defined as a set of discourses through which subjectivity is formed. Our idea is to research contemporary self-help literature as a technology of the self through which an individual governs himself according to the rules of a certain dispositif therefore. In the next part of our paper we will present the context of our research which will be described as a change in governmentality regimes in the second half of the twentieth century. We will present that change as a transition from a disciplinary regime of governemntality to the neoliberal regime. In the next part of our paper we will define self-help literature as a discursive technology of the self that aims at getting its readers to see themselves as having a problem that requires them to transform themselves and therefore achieve happiness. Next we will present a short history oh self-help literature dividing it into three phases that differ in the relation authors have to their readers and in the figure of the big other whose ideas the authors claim to represent. We will claim that our object of research is the third period of the development of self-help literature beginning in the eighties. Next we will present our research that will be conducted by using Foucaults’s theoretical discourse developed in the second volume of his History of Sexuality. We will conclude that contemporary self-help literature can be seen as a technology of the self that transforms the reader’s subjectivity in order to make them govern themselves as autonomous subjects that seek to fulfill their innermost desires. Therefore we will claim that contemporary self-help literature can bee seen as a technology of the self of the neoliberal governmentality regime. 

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Published
2020-12-15
How to Cite
Urošević, Milan. 2020. “Contemporary Self-Help Literature: An Analysis from the Perspective of Governementality Studies”. Issues in Ethnology and Anthropology 15 (4), 1007–1036. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.21301/eap.v15i4.3.