Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Imagine: Credit Where Credit Is Due

Last week Alan Yentob and his marvelous crew of producers at the BBC aired an episode of the cultural program Imagine focused on the rise of self-help culture.

Yentob had been on a Panglossian (is that a word?) quest for the truth about self-help and happiness, and on the way he stopped by in New York City and interviewed me about my take on self-help culture.

Part of what I said is "Now we live in a culture of constant change and turnover . . . you not only have to be employed, but constantly employable. Not only married, but constantly marriageable. And that is the moment self-help emerges as a powerful literature."

It's a lovely summary, and I'm sure I did indeed say that, but the credit for this language rightly belongs to Jerald Wallulis who wrote a wonderful book called The New Insecurity: The End of the Standard Job and Family.

When I mention this idea in Self-Help, Inc, naturally I cite Wallulis and his work, but somehow in the ebb and flow of the interview I must have forgotten to mention this intellectual debt.

Apologies to Wallulis, whose book is a veritable goldmine of ideas about the use of anxiety and cultures of self-governance as instruments of social control. And thanks to the BBC for a thought-provoking program.