South China Morning Post
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: capitalism, Neoliberalism, New Prophets of Capital, Nicole Aschoff, Oprah, self help, success
Oprah says it’s not the system, it’s you.
She tells us the market will solve grave political, social and environmental problems, as long as we adjust ourselves to its demands.
She sees your anxiety and tells you it is not the fault of all of these very real external social problems; rather it is your fault, you just haven’t worked hard enough to comply with the rules.
For someone doing well, emphasizing how you improve yourself through your own efforts is empowering; the successful cling to this ideology because it has worked very well for them.
But, for someone with anxiety and thoughts of alienation, Oprah’s ideology is pretty dispiriting. It reinforces a punitive view that becomes pervasive and pushes people deeper into helplessness and passivity.
What we get is a passive, atomized, isolated populace unwilling to think and to articulate what ails them and how to make it better; a culture that is punitive – a very real Stockholm-syndrome culture of self censure and self defeat; and finally institutions that, although fatally flawed, remain unchallenged and increase in corruption and power.
The irony is that the message seems so affirming and yet is so destructive, and the tragedy is the lives that it takes.
From New Prophets of Capital:
Oprah is one of a new group of elite storytellers who present practical solutions to society’s problems that can be found within the logic of existing profit-driven structures of production and consumption. They promote market-based solutions to the problems of corporate power, technology, gender divides, environmental degradation, alienation and inequality.
Oprah recognizes the pervasiveness of anxiety and alienation in our society. But instead of examining the economic or political basis of these feelings, she advises us to turn our gaze inward and reconfigure ourselves to become more adaptable to the vagaries and stresses of the neoliberal moment.
The way Oprah tells us to get through it all and realize our dreams is always to adapt ourselves to the changing world, not to change the world we live in. We demand little or nothing from the system, from the collective apparatus of powerful people and institutions. We only make demands of ourselves.
We are the perfect, depoliticized, complacent neoliberal subjects.
extract from New Prophets of Capital by Nicole Aschoff, published by Verso Books.