The kitsch of self-help

Self-help discourse takes up an ever-growing share of our bookshelves and popular culture. We find that its most deplorable features are their Kitsch. This lists those based on Milan Kundera’s discussion of the term (in *The Unbearable Lightness of Being*).

Sentimentality: In self-help discourse, positive feelings are an end in itself.

Pretentiousness: insistence that thoughts stem from an act of volition, amenable to will-power and rational ‘fixing’. Self-help advocates are also trying very hard to explain the mysterious and ambiguous, and offer a solution to all human troubles.

Fake and self-congratulatory: Another trait is the complacency in having “good feelings” without considering the real causes, or perhaps the absence of causes. Also, the very pursuit of inner peace is oft-taken as yet another status symbol when all other middle-class chattels have lost their value.

Avoiding ambiguity: Finally, the relative determinism of self and social structure to explain our ails is far more complex than self-help would have it. Problems do not merely arise due to our thinking, and bad feelings should not merely be avoided.

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