This article investigates how current self-help literature seeks to problematize and cultivate certain personality traits. The study emphasizes individual autonomy, and is based on an analytical framework employing Michel Foucault’s concept of problematization and his insights into power and governmentality – particularly those concerned with the various ways in which subjects govern themselves. The article combines these two analytical perspectives in an attempt to show how the objective of creating autonomous subjects is carried out in this literature, despite the paradoxical nature of doing so through the readers’ subjection to self-help instructions. The analysis concludes that the problems taken up in the self-help literature are generally formulated in terms of various forms of incompleteness. This entails a constant and never ending development towards, as a final objective, a self-realization, which can never quite be achieved. Thus the subject is construed as an unfinished project that is never quite good enough, always requiring improvement. The second part of the article analyses how this ubiquitous incompleteness of the subject manifests itself through the paradox of creating autonomy through subjection. Key words: Foucault, problematization, self-help, autonomy.
|Translated title of the contribution||The Inadequate Subject: Self-Help Literature and the Government of the Self – a Foucauldian Analysis|
|Number of pages||23|
|Publication status||Published - 2013|