by Barbara Ehrenreich
In a gleefully scathing review of self-help books for business executives, a new genre, Ehrenreich points out that they are not only short on words ("for the postreading generation") but also short on thinking skills. They typically advise one to stop analyzing, avoid any negative impression of the status quo, and to be passionately happy about beating others to the cash pile and becoming a Rich Master.
(This alone is enough to remind us of the power of negative thinking: the Hegelian negation of a negation is sometimes the best way out.)
To save you the pain of having to read all those "books", she also distills their generic message into a list of five points. I won't bother to repeat that list here, as one of Ehrenreich's observations is that such books are overly fond of lists, graphs, illustrations, empty layout, etc., of the sort that give the illusion of substance and prevent you from thinking realistically.
Her conclusion is worth quoting:
"There you have it, the five highly condensed secrets of business success. If you find them immoral, delusional or insulting to the human spirit, you should humbly consider the fact that, to judge from the blurbs on the backs of these books, they have won the endorsement of numerous actual C.E.O.'s of prominent companies. Maybe the books tell us what these fellows want their underlings to believe. Be more like mice, for example. Or -- and this is the truly scary possibility -- maybe the principles embody what the C.E.O.'s themselves believe, and it is in fact the delusional, the immoral and the verbally challenged who are running the show."