As self-help books continue to be a staple of publishing houses, many have suggested their popularity is due to an increasingly narcissistic or self-involved American culture. However, research by New York University sociologist Micki McGee, author of the forthcoming Self-Help, Inc.: Makeover Culture in American Life (Oxford University Press, 2005), shows that Americans have been relying on this literature for advice on how to cope in an increasingly volatile and competitive labor market. In fact, her data reveal that as both real wages and occupational stability have declined since the early 1970s, Americans have increasingly turned to self-help volumes to “create a vision for one’s life.”

This dynamic is especially evident during the holiday season, when consumerism dominates the cultural terrain, and at the New Year, when individuals traditionally embark on self-improvement projects. Moreover, the future of the American economy tops the White House’s agenda later this month, when President Bush’s economic initiatives forum takes place.

Reporters interested in speaking with McGee on these matters should contact James Devitt, NYU’s Office of Public Affairs, at 212.998.6808 or

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