Saturday, October 6, 2007

Neo-Liberal Morality as a Life Lesson

Most people by now have probably heard of The Secret, one of the newest crazes in the "self-help" genre. While normally I don't pay much attention to them and find their premises often mildly pointless, The Secret really struck me as unusual. The underlying ideas about social reality reflect much of the cultural zeitgeist in the Western capitalist world, particularly that of the United States. Notions of personal responsibility, individual efficacy, and blaming the victim all play a central role in creating a mythos that embodies the neo-liberal ideology that has come to infiltrate nearly all areas of American life.

The Secret argues that you need to put positive energy out into the world and it will come back to you in the form of the wishes that you have made. The positive energy focuses on simply telling the universe telepathically what you would like (be it consumer goods, health, love, etc.). While I am all for positive thinking, this movement takes it to the level of cultish psychobabble. Those who are failing in life are not making their wishes to the universe in a sufficient way. Much of The Secret is focused on bringing in material goods as well such as cars and houses. This individualist ideology comes at a time of hyper-selfishness and extreme consumerism; The Secret reflects both of these tendencies. Similar to other ideologies of its ilk, it does not even attempt to identify the role of social and structural factors in the creation of life opportunities (which is not surprising in the least given that it is simply a "self help" book"). While I never cease to be amazed by the mystical inclination of the American public, The Secret plays upon the biases and under education within the United States to create another self help movement to bilk people out of their money as they go in search of even more money.

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