Esra Coker Körpez – Reading the “City” as an Agent of Self-Transformation

TRANS: Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 18. Nr.     Januar 2012

Section | Sektion: City as the Literature of Transformation

Urban Values and American Self Help:
Reading the “City” as an Agent of Self-Transformation

Esra Coker Körpez (Dokuz Eylül University, Turkey)


 Konferenzdokumentation |  Conference publication

What makes American culture relatively distinctive . . . is that it is a society which places a high premium on economic affluence and social ascent for all its members. . . [t]his patterned expectation is regarded as appropriate for everyone, irrespective of his initial lot or station in life…

This leads naturally to the subsidiary theme that success or failure are results wholly of personal qualities, that he who fails has only himself to blame, for the corollary to the concept of the self-made man is the self-unmade man.

(Robert K Merton. Social Theory, 222-23)

The United States with its 2.48 billion dollar a year self-improvement industry that makes up 6 percent of the entire book market is one of the leaders in the world in selling, marketing and spreading a privatized concept of the self whose potential of growth is unlimited and inexorable. In fact, it would not be misleading to say that self-help is in the cultural DNA of the United States where individuals continuously struggle to realize themselves by mapping out their life projects all with the sense that it is their life choices that play a prominent role in their making as well as their unmaking. American history is filled with such self-created heroes who have literally made themselves from scratch. From Benjamin Franklin to Horatio Alger, from Henry Ford to Andrew Carnegie, Americans have been fascinated with the ideas of self-sufficiency, self-fulfillment and personal growth. Thus, today, it is not unusual to come across American presidents seeking the personal advice of self-help gurus like Stephen R Covey and Anthony Robbins or America’s biggest retail store Wal-Mart spending $30 million dollars to launch a fitness and life-style improvement program for its 1.3 million workers (1) or for a journalist to say that seeking self-improvement “is as American — and bipartisan — as apple pie.” (2)

This paper by giving a brief overview of the major success classics of American self-help industry, first answers why self-help literature as a text is peculiarly American, constitutive of the social structures and cultural codes of American life. After displaying the prominent role America’s cultural heritage has played in the development of America’s self-help culture, I give place to the various social criticisms that have linked self-help values with the increasingly privatized concept of the American self. And last but not least, as a remedy to this in-inward therapeutic turn of American society, I argue that in fact “urban lifestyles” if promoted correctly, can become the future guidelines of self-help literature in the United States. By focusing on the two values of contemporary urban living, which are “creativity” and “cosmopolitanism,” I attempt to read the “city” as an alternative “script” that can free the individual from his self-absorbed, insular state of mind.

A Brief Overview of American Self-Help Literature

With scripts of self-sufficiency, risk-taking and material prosperity derived directly from its unique frontier experience, the cultural matrix of the United States from its very beginning echoes the famous self-help maxim “heaven helps those who helps themselves.” For the earliest American settlers, the wild and untamable wilderness was the essential guidebook of self-help from which the rules of endurance and survival was spontaneously learned. A country proud to leave its ancestors and past behind, the United States is regarded by many American writers and scholars as an exceptional ground where individuals have the chance to create themselves anew by abandoning morals or traditional values inconsistent with their individual progress. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau all project in their writings a model of selfhood reminiscent of the self-reliant and independent pioneer who at the center of things does not hesitate to take personal initiative and action. Frederick Jackson Turner, in his groundbreaking work The Frontier in American History (1910), also suggests how the frontier landscape by offering many opportunities for reinvention served as a natural pamphlet for human self-development:

Besides the ideals of conquest and of discovery, the pioneer had the ideal of personal development, free from social and governmental constraint. He came from a civilization based on individual competition, and he brought the conception with him to the wilderness where a wealth of resources, and innumerable opportunities gave it a new scope. The prizes were for the keenest and the strongest . . . . Here were . . . all the varied chances for advancement afforded in a rapidly developing society where everything was open to him who knew how to seize the opportunity. (228)

The frontier values of competition, economic individualism and progress offered the American people the major codes with which to express, shape and guide their selfhood. However, it was only when combined with the self-scrutiny and self-discipline of the moral Puritan mind of Benjamin Franklin that the literature of self-improvement captured the American public imagination. (3) Benjamin Franklin’s “Way to Wealth,” the preface of the 1758 edition of Poor Richard Almanack became a national best-seller, selling 250,000 copies in the New England colonies, the most read book after the Bible. As a secularized Protestant, Benjamin Franklin, interpreted his “personal calling” as a summons for self-discipline, hard-work and thrift through which he could achieve not only his individual salvation but also his American Dream. According to him, unlimited potential of self and land had to be utilized for personal wealth and prosperity. Franklin’s self-help advices such as “Time is money,” “A penny saved is a penny earned,” in Poor Richard Almanack, exerted a profound influence on the next generation which resulted in a proliferation of self-help sermons, especially, by well-known clergyman and ministers of the time, among whom Reverend Lyman Abbott, William Lawrence and Henry Ward Beecher were the best known.(4) Like Benjamin Franklin, these ministers also underlined the importance of moral retribution and self-denial in the achievement of worldly fortune and marketed the American idea of success as godly duty. Intertwining success with spiritual life, they associated wealth with righteousness, poverty with sin and claimed that wealth would make a “home happier, the community more refined, and the whole land more civilized.” (5) The barons of the industrial age like Andrew Carnegie and John D Rockefeller, added a new touch to this “gospel of wealth”(6) by insisting that success didn’t depend alone on moral discipline and hard-work but required the individual to be “fit” to ruthless competition. According to them, American society with its democratic ideas of free mobility and equal opportunity was “open” only to those who had the initiative, energy and will-power to win. (7) Cawelti in describing the characteristics of this new philosophy of success that emerged in the early years of the twentieth century writes:

The philosophers of success admitted that many Americans were poor and unhappy. But their failure was neither caused by a basic defect in the new social system nor was it a matter of personal immortality. Rather it was simply a failure of nerve, of self-confidence, of initiative. If the new industrial age had produced a greater division between rich and poor, it was because the mass of Americans, losing their courage, had become dependent upon those who still possessed the determination to win. (180)

The stories and parables of entrepreneurial businessmen which asserted will-power, achievement and competition as the key components of “social welfare” and “public good” became the new self-help guru literature of the 1890’s. Endorsing social Darwinism with self-enhancement, such scripts offered competing accounts of the self as a national project in which each person had a moral as well as a civic responsibility to create prosperity and opportunity for others.

However, the rampant industrialization and urbanization of post-Civil war America also gave way to rapid societal and technological changes that fostered insecurity, confusion and doubt. The American individual, torn by the continuous competition of a free market economy and lacking the security and stability granted by more traditional and hierarchical cultures, saw moralistic concerns and Christian values less and less significant in the achievement of personal success and happiness. Morally good character traits was no longer defined by Puritan virtues of honesty, frugality, prudence nor by the American value system of egalitarian individualism that emphasized efficiency, innovation, courage, ambition and personal drive. The economic decline and crisis was to be overcome by the “New Thought Movement” in which such writers as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Orson Swett Marden’s Pushing to the Front (1894), Ralph Waldo Trine’s In Time with the Infinite (1910), Napolean Hill’s Think and Grow Rich (1937) and Bruce MacLelland’s Prosperity Through Thought Force (1907) would play an instrumental role. These writers who advocated mental healing saw power, prosperity and general well-being as a result of one’s full realization of his interior powers: “…success in life is due entirely to the personality of the individual; that through introspection, mental suggestions, the Law of Vibration and the power of imagination, anyone can make of himself whatever he chooses” (MacLelland 25).

The discourse of spiritual “mental healing” and “wish-fulfillment” (Starker 39) that began with the New Thought Movement and which emphasized the magical unlimited power of human potential would lead in the 1960’s and 70’s to the emergence of a new psychological movement in which life coaches, therapists, and New Age gurus would play a prominent role. The focus of this movement would be the well-being of the psyche and its happiness. The individual in his/her search for personal well-being and “a peace of mind” was encouraged to seek his full potential by freeing him/herself from any communal obligations and commitments and overcome spiritual and emotional deficiencies by taking total charge of his life. “Positive thinking” or its academic strain “Positive Psychology” (8) blended spiritual well-being with business tactics and its topics ranged from time-management to high-performance leadership, from life-style coaching to “post-traumatic stress syndrome.“ The popularity of therapeutic cultures and discourses of contemporary self-help books have been criticized by many sociologists and cultural critics (9) as enhancing a rampant feel-good industry of American consumerism which in turn has created self-absorbed individuals who interpret happiness as a “narcissistic preoccupation with the self” (Lasch XV):

Economic man himself has given way to the psychological man of our times-the final product of bourgeois individualism. The new narcissist is haunted not by guilt but by anxiety. . . . Acquisitive in the sense that his cravings have no limits, he does not accumulate goods and provisions against the future, in the manner of acquisitive individualist of nineteenth –century political economy, but demands immediate gratification and lives in a state of restless, perpetually unsatisfied desire. (Lasch XVI)

Consequently, in the turn of the century, there has been a great change in the purpose, meaning and context of self-help literature. Some critics describe the nature of this shift as a cultural revolution that involves a radical movement away from the Puritan moral ethic of “self-denial” towards the post-industrial “ethics of self-fulfillment” (Yankelovich); a shift away from a “socially integrated paradigm for structuring well-being” (Collier 224) that involves hard-work, deferred gratification and civic membership toward a more “personal or individual paradigm” (Collier 224) that involves self-actualization, immediate gratification and the “feeling good” syndrome.

A brief overview of American self-help literature actually pinpoints to the deeply growing new subjective form of inwardness that haunts the American character today. Consequently, self-help books -whether they emphasize introspective self-exploration ranging from New Age movements to holistic medicines, from Tibetan Buddhism to shamanic cult practices or focus on individual awareness through a dependence and acknowledgement of market values and Enlightenment norms- serve only as means of individual therapy and have become ineffectual in linking the private self to the public sphere. In general, the spiritual as well as the practical self-help guidelines of leadership writers, spiritual gurus, life coaches and psychotherapists are concerned with individual gain. They either try to put the individual in touch with his/her inner voice or prepare him/her for the harsh realities of everyday life. What they share in common is a conception of a self which is essentially privatized and individuated. It is very seldom that such literature will endorse the issue of self-realization in the frame of bearing moral and political responsibility to others, leading a humane and peaceful coexistence and displaying a general openness to the world.

A New Self-Help Paradigm: Embracing Urban Values

I stand, figuratively, with one wet foot on Plymouth Rock, looking with some delicacy, not into a formidable and challenging wilderness but onto a half-finished civilization embracing glass towers, oil derricks, suburban continents and abandoned movie houses and wondering why, in this most prosperous, equitable, and accomplished world — where even the cleaning women practice the Chopin preludes in their spare time — everyone should seem to be so disappointed? (John Cheever Death of Justina)

Can the selection and foregrounding of “good city” (Hutton, quoted in Amin 65) values be a remedy for the social malaise that haunts American contemporary society today and serve as an alternative self-help text that can satisfy the needs, wishes and fears of the modern era? Or to put it differently, can “living in the city” function not as a alienating, demoralizing urban lifestyle in need of therapy, but as a blueprint of a new American model of selfhood in which a cosmopolitan openness and commitment to others can coexist with the values of competition, achievement and progress?

  1. The Creative City: Innovation, Talent and Flexibility

American urban landscapes have shared a popular history of being known as places of social hardship, economic exploitation and cheap labor for many immigrants who have emigrated from their homelands to start life anew. This is because the American cities of the past generated their potential and wealth from the labor-intensive mass production based on manufacture, production and retail. However, in the turn of the 21st century, with the increasingly fast developing communication and information technology, the driving forces for economic growth and prosperity shifted from a corporate-based to a knowledge-based economy (Castells 40-48;Amin 60-71). Consequently, today the prosperity of the city lies not in the capital and big industries it attracts, but in the range of cultural quality that it offers so that it can be a desirable place to live, consume and produce. In fact, studies made in urban cultural policies, illustrate that cities in order to support the rapidly growing knowledge industry of today have to foster a human climate and facilitate the attraction of local “cultural capital.” (10) This new exchange of cultural and economic values, of course has its pitfalls since it leads to the “selling” and “marketing” of culture for consumption; however, on the other hand, it also has its strengths since the urban values that are promoted are no longer related to the traditional labor economy of “efficiency” and “hard work” but to the economy of “creative capital” (Florida, Rise 267-82) that thrives on the qualities of innovation, creativity and talent. By offering individuals a variety of inclusive and diverse spaces and greater access to self-expression, urban centers try to attract the “creative class” who is believed to be the driving force in regional economic growth. (11)

Consequently, the ways of making it to the top, to “stand out” from the herd has also changed. In the past, the wisdom and tactics given by American success gurus such as Norman Vincent Peale, Anthony Robbins, Stephen R. Covey, John Whitmore, Anthony Robbins or Deepak Chopra, all aimed at achieving “maximum personal performance”(12) through mind-power, leadership qualities or meditative healing. Such practices could have been viable in mainstream economics where success is equal to self-discipline and self-management. However, today, as Florida indicates it is not “jobs” but “lifestyles” that people go after and that companies are now following talented professionals, the “creative class” who make up 30 percent of the entire United States population and who account a half of all wage and salary income (Cities 35). Thus, Florida argues that cities such as Washington D.C., San Francisco and Boston which attract talented high skilled people also attract technology-based companies and sustain a regional advantage in the creative economy. These cities by linking technology with innovation, culture with ideas are able to create the conditions for people to become agents of change and, therefore, are able to reach the status of the “most successful cities” of the 21st century. By providing a broad mix of cultural amenities, original and authentic experience, by fostering tolerance, diversity and open-mindedness, these “creative” urban landscapes will become the future examples of urban living. Implicit in Florida’s argument is the rewriting of the success paradigm. For if success becomes equivalent to creativity, then the values that nourish, entice, and mobilize creativity such as tolerance, diversity, and inter-cultural competence will also carry importance in one’s self-development. According to this new paradigm in which “ideas” are the new currency, “flexibility” and “inventiveness” rather than “efficiency” and “self-control” become the primary sources of competitive advantage and, thus, the individual learns to view life not as a “leadership course” or an “accomplishment program” but as a prism of ambiguity, where breaking borders and boundaries become the norm.

As opposed to the developing suburban lifestyles that still reflect increasingly conservative values, “creative cities” with their inclusive and broad-range of cultural experiences that procure the ability for joint visioning, integrated thinking, and inventive problem-solving can become a panacea to the status anxious, emotionally hungry “me” generation of our times.

  1. The Cosmopolitan City: Diversity, Tolerance and Empathy

    Cosmopolitanism in a stricted sense includes a stance toward diversity itself, toward the coexistence of cultures in the individual experience. A more genuine cosmopolitanism is first of all an orientation, a willingness to engage with the Other. It is an intellectual and aesthetic stance of openness toward divergent cultural experiences, a search for contrasts rather than uniformity. (Ulf Hannerz, 239)

The internationalism of American cities, in other words, the connection between urban living and international events are very symbolic and restricted to what Smith describes as the “recognition of nostalgic if palpably real Little Italies, Little Taiwans, Little Jamaicans, Little San Juans . . . as if to allow a tokenist internationalism at the neighborhood (working-class”) scale while insisting on the Americanism of the city as a whole” (203). This is not very surprising, for even though American society is made up of various ethnic groups with a continuously increasing foreign-born population(13) the contributions of multi-ethnic diversity to the fabric of U.S. national culture have been very insignificant. In fact, Ronald Takaki, a distinguished scholar of ethnic studies has commented on the possibility of Americans appreciating their rich racial and cultural diversity as a dream perpetually deferred (7).

Due to this lack of appreciation for cultural diversity and fear of “strangers,” most American cities which shelter a vast population of ethnic minorities are able to produce either “cultural quarters” (Bell and Jane, quoted in Binnie 18) that function as mere spectacle and serve the needs of tourists or investors, or territorialized “ethnic enclaves” that isolate rather than celebrate cultural diversity. In place of bridging differences and encouraging an open and tolerant way of life, most American cities either homogenize or domesticate “difference” and stand in stark contrast to the ideal cosmopolitan cities of today.

Modern successful cities of the 21st century like London, New York, Tokyo that focus on the “economics of cultural mobilization” (Gotham, quoted in Amin and Thrift 152), humanistic rationale and creative entrepreneurship also have the goal of becoming cosmopolitan centers of intercultural engagement. For in the 21st century, the key to regional competitiveness does not lie in the “creative potential” of cities alone but also on their cosmopolitan outlook. Studies have shown that cultural diversity and social tolerance do not only increase the innovative capacity of a place but also sustain its urban economic and physical regeneration. By means of developing a city’s pool of “cultural resources,” among which are street markets, bars, cafes, restaurants, arts and media activities, local festivals, local craftsmanship and making them “walkable, accessible and networked” (Landry xlvii), city planners try to attain a competitive advantage in cultural marketing. The increase in public spaces, where people can socially interact and mingle, also creates a good opportunity for authentic intercultural person-to-person, face-to-face encounters and exchanges. Especially, with the increased use of automobiles by which the daily lives of individuals are squeezed between the routine of work, shop and home, between “large suburban triangles” (Putnam 211), the urgent human need for vibrant, lively, socially interactive urban spaces has emerged:

[There is] a tendency for social life to become ‘privatized’ and a reduced feeling of concern and responsibility among families for their neighbors and among suburbanites in general. . . The real shift, however, is the way in which our lives are centered inside the house, rather than on the neighborhood or community. With increased use of automobiles, the life of the sidewalk and the front yard has disappeared. . . There are few places as desperate and lonely as a suburban street on a hot afternoon” (Jackson, quoted in Putnam, 211)

In this respect, urban spaces that provide the individual with the opportunities of social intercourse and a “shared sense of community” ensure a more enriching life experience then the recommendations of most popular self-help books whose “new survivalism” (McGee 51) rest completely on the fulfillment of the “self” and its desires. Furthermore, considering that the world outside is a global village, the cultivation of personal skills or the development of one’s full potential is not enough to deal with the challenges of international migration and transnational networks. To succeed, individuals must also cultivate their cosmopolitan skills and intercultural competency and learn to negotiate and navigate with difference. Jon Binnie in his book Cosmopolitan Urbanism describes cosmopolitan practice as:

Cosmopolitan practice involves a set of skills which are applied in the encounter with difference. In particular these skills involve the ability to map one’s own socio-cultural position vis-à-vis the diversity encountered, and thus require a degree of reflexive ability . . . this skilled curiosity towards other societies and cultures often involves a degree of risk by virtue of experiencing diversity and otherness. Thus, the skill of the cosmopolite is bound up with moments of uncertainty yet this practice remains where risks are overcome by the ability and willingness of the cosmopolite to make sense of and move through different societies gathering not knowledge of the particular culture in question but also enhancing a disposition and attitude that reduces the shock of the new or the different…

The practice of cosmopolitanism with its emphasis on “cultural competence” described by Hannerz as a “built-up skill in maneuvering with a particular system of meanings and meaningful forms” (239) should not be limited to the class of educated professional elites or world travelers who “move at will” in the transnational economics of global business or entertainment. A cosmopolitan disposition that sees culture as a toolkit for the cultivation of such skills as reflexibility, curiosity, tolerance, risk-taking, negotiation, empathy is an also an essential urban value that must be practiced in the daily ordinary lives of individuals. As such, a shared sense of meaning, collaboration and mutuality can exist among the various social and ethnic groups whose wealth of insights, knowledge, skills and talents, like in the example of Singapore, can build “a first-world-economy and a world-class home” (Tan and Yeoh 148).

Moreover, internalizing the traits of a cosmopolite and becoming a world citizen does not entail the abandonment of national identity or local affiliations. On the contrary, as Nussbaum indicates, in her discussion of the Stoic tradition of cosmopolitan thought, that all affiliations whether it be familial, social, political, attribute to the building of a “interlocking commonality” that binds the individual to the main “source of great richness in life” -that of humanity:

[Stoics] suggest that we think of ourselves not as devoid of local affiliations, but as surrounded by a series of concentric circles. The first one encircles the self, the next takes in the immediate family, then follows the extended family, then, in order, neighbors or local groups, fellow city-dwellers, and fellow countrymen –and we can easily add to this list groupings based on linguistic, historical, professional, gender, or sexual identities. Outside all these circles is the largest one, humanity as a whole. Our task as citizens of the world will be to ‘draw the circles somehow toward the center’ . . . making all human-beings more like our city-dwellers. . . a part of our community of dialogue and concern” (158).

A cosmopolitan view of life may be a vision that can be very complicated to put into practice, since it necessitates the breaking up of barriers between different socio-economic, cultural and religious groups and turning the individual into what Vertovec terms as a “cultural chameleon who assumes others’ ways non-consciously with subtle communication cues to signal commonality or to attempt shared meaning” (7). But still, it is a vision that should be integrated to the social fabric of the United States. It is only then can American individuals free themselves from the limitations imposed by the ideal of the self-serving autonomous individual and connect to the world outside.

Conclusion: From Self-Made to the Cosmopolite

American self-help gurus ranging from Horatio Alger –the representative self-made man whose life exemplifies the American dream to Anthony Robbins, the archetypal performance coach whose self-help empire is the American Dream – encapsulate a specific relationship with the American sense of self. With their exemplary character formations which are always “in construction,” they represent the American heroic pioneers who are in a continuous exercise of improvement, adjustment and starting over. With scripts derived directly from the “frontier myth of the self-made man,” who has the unlimited potential to control and shape outcomes, American self-help literature has imparted the idea of “individualism” as the most essential part of American self-hood.

With the post-industrial era and the “rise of the psychological man,” however, American individualism has become more “utilitarian and expressive” (Bellah and et al, 55), devoid of the sense of social responsibility and commitment epitomized by Franklin and his counterparts. Such individualism has resulted in what Bellah and et al. term as the “socially unsituated self” (55) whose self-definition is based solely on self-interest and performance and whose journey in self-actualization does not involve a shared sense of place, family or community. Alas, this results in an ongoing turn towards a greater sense of interiority and emptiness in American society. Self-help literature, ironically buttresses this state of isolation with the privatized lifestyle it condones and the self-serving values and practices it promotes.

The rejuvenation of urban values associated with “the vanishing public sphere” (McGee 185) can serve as a remedy to the isolated preoccupation with the self that has plagued the social fabric of the United States. A cosmopolitan out-look on life, can in fact, propagate dialectics of community and connection, personal intimacy and social commitment and bridge the division between public and private life while the language of “innovation” can serve as an alternative “mode” of survival and adaptation for many individuals who dwell in the “creative cities” of the 21st century. Both values, with their emphasis on the need for flexibility, tolerance and diversity, realign the individual with his social identity and impose the key of success as “intercultural” rather than as “interpersonal.” In contrast to the popular imagination where cities are linked to scenes of crime, violence and cheap labor, if promoted and designed carefully, urban way of living can function as the practical guideline of a successful community-based living and can put an end to the feeling of emptiness and alienation that is at the heart of American society today.


1 Michael Barbaro, New York Times, Business section, April 5 2007. 2 Karen De Witt, “Jan 29-Feb 4; Dial 1-800-MY-GURU.” Week in Review, New York Times, February 5 Section 4, 1995, p.2. New York Edition. 3 Thomas J Steele refers to Benjamin Franklin as the apostle of “economic redemption” in his article “Orality and Literacy in Matter and Form: Ben Franklin’s Way of Wealth,” Oral Tradition 2.1 (1987): 273-85. For further reading on the influence of Benjamin Franklin see Louis B Wright “Franklin’s Legacy to the Gilded Age,” Virginia Quarterly Review 12 (1946): 268-279. 4 Irwin G Wyllie in his book, The Self-Made Man in America: The Myth of Rags to Riches (New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 1954) calls attention to the religious strain of the American myth of success by pointing out that it was mostly the 19th century self-help books and lectures of clergyman and ministers like Lyman Abbott’s How to Succeed (1882), William Lawrence’s “Relation of Wealth to Morals” (1854), and Horatio Alger’s Ragged Dick (1883) that marketed the American idea of success as a positive religious duty and viewed the idea of self-improvement as synonymous with economic prosperity: “By teaching that godliness was in league with riches such spokesmen put the sanction of the church on the get-ahead values of the business community. And by so teaching they encouraged each generation to believe that it was possible to serve both God and Mammon” (Wyllie 56). 5 Henry Ward Beecher, “The Tendencies of American Progress” [1870] in Conrad Cherry’s God’s New Israel: Religious Interpretations of American Destiny (Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1998), p. 245.6 “Gospel of wealth” is a notion that Andrew Carnegie came up with and wrote about in his essay titled “Wealth” published in North American Review, 148, no. 391 (1889): 653. 7 Cawelti, 167-184. As Cawelti points out:. . . the successful competitors were those individuals whose energy, initiative, and willingness to work created prosperity and opportunities for others. Not only were such individuals entitled moved in accordance with natural laws, they would inevitably get them. Furthermore, the ideologists of success refused to believe that some individuals were inherently more fit than others. Reasserting the traditional maxim “where there’s a will there’s a way,” they insisted that there were more opportunities than ever for a man to get ahead. Failure, they insisted, was largely caused by defects in the individual’s character and will” (Cawelti 173).8 For further readings on “Positive Psychology” as a science of happiness see articles and books written by Martin Seligman’s Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Life (New York: Simon &Schuster, 1990), Stephen Joseph and Alex Linley’s Positive Therapy: A Meta-Theory for Positive Psychological Practice (New York: Routlege, 2006), and Kate Hefferon and Ilona Boniwell’s Theory Research and Application (Buckingham: Open UP, 2011). 9 For further criticism on the therapeutic worldview see Cushman, Lasch, Moskovitz, Reiff, and Sennett. 10 For further reading on the investment on how “cultural capital” plays an important role in a city’s economic growth see Amin and Thrift, and Scott. 11 For a further reading on the increasing input of the “creative class” on the cultural economy of cities see Florida and Landry.
12 Anthony Robbins, Unlimited Power (New York: Fawcett, 198), p.11). 13 According to the briefing booklet published in 2005 of the New York Department of City Planning The Newest New Yorkers: Immigrant New York in the New Millennium, it is stated that 11% of United States population is of foreign-born population (p.4).


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  • Vertovec, Steven. “Cosmopolitanism in Attitude, Practice and Competence.” MMG (Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity) Working Papers 09- 08, 2009. 08_Vertovec_Cosmopolitanism.pdf
  • Yankelovich, Daniel. New Rules: Searching for Self-Fulfillment in a World Turned Upside Down. New York: Random, 1981.


TRANS  Inhalt | Table of Contents 18. Nr. INST

For quotation purposes:
Esra Coker Körpez: Urban Values and American Self Help: Reading the “City” as an Agent of Self-Transformation –
In: TRANS. Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften. No. 18/2011.
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