Annotated Bibliography: Self-help

Allwood, R. (1996) ‘I Have Depression, Don’t I? Discourses of Help and Self-help Books’,  in E. Burnman (ed.) Psychology Discourse Practices. London: Taylor & Francis.
This text examines the way in which depression is presented and dealt with in five popular self-help books. Though I’m reading self-help books on my own to get a sense of their arguments Allwood’s work will be useful a useful resource in generalizing the perceptions of depression and methods of self-help advocated by self-help books.

Hazelden, R. (2003) ‘Love Yourself: The Relationship of the Self with Itself in  Popular Self-help Texts’, Journal of Sociology 39: 413–28.
This text will be useful in exploring a foucauldian explanation of the relationship between liberal government and self help culture. I will use it to explore how self-help books are a tool to promote capitalistic values.

Leontev, A. N. Activity, Consciousness, and Personality, Prentice Hall, 1978
This article will be useful in examining the assumptions underlying modern psychology and provides a Marxist critique of an understanding of psychology which does not assume that humans minds are grounded in and shaped by real-life experiences and activity. Thus I can use it to  criticize self-help arguments which ignore or downplay real situations and focus instead on the idea that a person simply doesn’t have the right attitude to life, or is conceptualizing the world incorrectly.

McGee, M. (2005) Self-help, Inc.: Makeover Culture in American Life. New York:  Oxford University Press.
This book explores how self-help career books, are a result of the the increasing insecurity of people as a result of  advanced capitalism. I will use this to examine the results of advanced capitalism on the individual and look in particular for her comments about depression.

Philip, Brigid Analysing the politics of self-help books on depression. Journal of Sociology 2009; 45; 151
This article will be useful in examining how the use of psychology invades the private sphere, normalizing subjective experiences. It also highlights how self-help books fit into a larger ideological idea of understanding depression as an inhibitor to being a productive member of a capitalistic notion, and how they reinforce values that benefit the capitalistic system.

Politzer, Georges, Critique of the Foundations of Psychology. Duqesne University Press, 1994.
This text (written roughly 60 years before Leontev’s essay) will provide additional Marxist-inspired criticism of the modern conception of depression and psychology which is presented in self-help books.

Rose, N. (2003) ‘Neurochemical Selves’, Society November/December: 46–59. This paper describes the limitations of consequences of biomedical explanations of depression. I will use it to criticize the way this methods of understanding depression (which is utilized in self-help books) fails to account for actual social problems and scarily creates a normalized “neurochemical self.”

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