At Work on the Self

Micki McGee

in Self-Help, Inc.

Published in print October 2005 | ISBN: 9780195171242
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199944088 | DOI:
At Work on the Self

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This chapter investigates more completely just how laborious the work of “inventing a self” can be, and how the ideal of individual self-mastery—which is at the heart of most self-help literature—relies on the unacknowledged servitude of others. In describing the nature of work on the self, the literatures of self-improvement give two distinct options: the path of endless effort and the path of absolute effortlessness. The Maudlin Exemplar manages the notion of misfortune and suggests that self-mastery is the fundamental prerequisite for success. The impossibility of finding one's “authentic” self is mitigated by the possibility of accessing, at least, one's most persuasive self. The ideal of life as a work of art is meant to insulate the self from the more economistic metaphor of life as a business, but in the end it fails to do so when it elevates work over labor, the reproduction of life itself.

Keywords: self-help; self-improvement; Maudlin Exemplar; self-mastery; labor

Chapter.  13769 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Sociology

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