Between high hopes and high-pop philosophy: inter-crossings of self-help literature and pop culture entertainment

TitleBetween high hopes and high-pop philosophy: inter-crossings of self-help literature and pop culture entertainment
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)Sanches, T. A.
Affiliation (1st Author)Institute of Philosophy and Human Sciences, University of Campinas, Brazil
Section or WGPopular Culture Working Group
DateThurs 27 June
Slot CodePOPT3a
Slot Code (Keyword)POPT3a
Time of Session14:00-15:30
Session TitleSoundscapes
Submission ID6626

This article aims at drawing into the new fast-growing editorial market that connects philosophical and pop culture themes. Popular culture icons such as The Simpsons, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Batman, 24 hours, House and Seinfeld are titles of pop philosophy book collections published in Brazil by Madras publisher. All collections above mentioned gather elements of high and pop culture, whose junction creates some sort of space between themselves. Philosophy shelves in great bookstores have been invaded by this sort of titles and concerning their thematic division, one can notice that it is becoming harder and harder to classify them as either pop or highbrow publications. This is not exactly a new phenomenon. Offering philosophy to a non-philosophical public is something that we can notice since the Sophists. However, when it comes to the dialogue that it establishes with the world of pop culture, self-help books and its responses to a mature capitalism constitute a brand new phenomenon. This article proposes to dwell on the reasons why these books are selling more than ever before nowadays. What do people look for when they buy those books? Is philosophy, fun or self-help? Are the readers after entertainment or thought? Why? The main hypothesis is that the advent of high-pop philosophy is related with two processes. First, with the loss of ancient traditions that would guide individuals in traditional societies. As means of responding to the radicalization of modernity (GIDDENS, 1991), reflexivity has become a guide to everyday actions, and people need new forms of dealing with that. As Giddens put it, reason comes to occupy the place of tradition and faith; but the problem is that reason is not synonym of certainty, or security. Reason comes with uncertainty and risk. If subjectivities were once built around traditions, now they are left abandoned and individuals have to look for new forms of subjectification: the destiny of the self-made-man. This leads us to the second hypothesis. Secondly, the high-pop philosophy phenomenon is connected to the advent of a therapeutic culture that does not only expects individuals to be happy and successful but creates expectations around an affective competence (ILLOUZ, 2011) to deal with everyday life. According to Illouz, there’s a quest for emotional control that gains legitimacy though new cultural scripts. Therefore, the high-pop philosophy market seems to be the result of new cultural practices - consequences of modern reflexivity and the rise of therapeutic cultures - that ultimately aim to provide ontological security to people in the contemporary world, by offering, at the same time, profound and fun explanations about everyday life, throughout the gathering of philosophy, self-help literature and pop culture.   Preliminary Bibliography COLLINS, J. High-Pop: making culture into popular entertainment. Kindle Edition. Oxford: Blackwell, 2003. BECK, U. Modernização reflexiva: política, tradição e estética na ordem social moderna. São Paulo: Editora da Universidade Estadual Paulista, 1997. GIDDENS, A. As consequências da modernidade. São Paulo: Editora Unesp, 1991. ILLOUZ, E. O amor nos tempos do capitalismo. Rio de Janeiro: Zahar, 2011. ILLOUZ, E. Saving the modern soul: therapy, emotions, and the culture of self-help. Kindle Edition. London: University of California Press, 2008.

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