Life Advice from Below

The Public Role of Self-Help Coaches in Germany and China

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In Life Advice from Below, Eric C. Hendriks offers the first systematic, comparative study of the globalization of American-style self-help culture and the cultural conflicts this creates in different national contexts. The self-help guru is an archetypical American figure associated with individualism, materialism and the American Dream. Nonetheless, the self-help industry is spreading globally, thriving in China and other seemingly unlikely places. Controversy follows in its wake, as the self-help industry, operating outside of formal education and state institutions, outflanks philosophical, religious and political elites who have their own visions of the Good Life. Through a comparison of Germany and China, Hendriks analyzes how the competition between self-help gurus and institutional authorities unfolds under radically different politico-cultural regimes.

“This witty book charms its way through a very serious sociology of the seriously quirky field of self-help books. Read it for its fascinating pop-culture insights and you’ll come away with a deep understanding of contemporary sociological theory. Highly recommended.” - Salvatore Babones, University of Sydney

“Hendriks’ finding that Germany rather than China is more resistant to self-help gurus offers a powerful corrective to the assumption in much of the globalization literature that the greatest cultural divide is between the Anglo-Western European sphere and the rest of the globe.” - Rodney Benson, New York University
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Biographical Note

Eric C. Hendriks, Ph.D., studied at Utrecht, UC Berkeley, Göttingen, the University of Chicago, and Mannheim, and presently works as a postdoc in sociology at Peking University. His research focuses on the politico-cultural regime differences between China and liberal democracies.

Review Quotes

“This witty book charms its way through a very serious sociology of the seriously quirky field of self-help books. Read it for its fascinating pop-culture insights and you’ll come away with a deep understanding of contemporary sociological theory. Highly recommended.” - Salvatore Babones, University of Sydney, author of American Tianxia: Chinese Money, American Power, and the End of History (Policy Press, 2017)

“Hendriks’ finding that Germany rather than China is (at least slightly) more resistant to self-help gurus offers a powerful corrective to the assumption in much of the globalization literature that the greatest cultural divide is between the Anglo-Western European sphere and the rest of the globe. Instead, as Hendriks suggests, the most relevant divide may between the (few remaining) social democratic nation-states and neo-liberal (or neo-liberalizing) nation-states, regardless of their geographical location.” - Rodney Benson, New York University, author of Shaping Immigration News: A French-American Comparison (Cambridge University Press, 2013)

“This is an original, creative piece of work with an enormous ambition to conduct comparative case studies in two foreign cultures simultaneously.” - Hartmut Wessler, University of Mannheim, co-author of Transnationalization of Public Spheres (Springer, 2008)

Table of contents

Preface
List of Figures and Tables

1 Introduction

2 Cultural Fields in the Public Sphere

3 The Persistence of National Regimes

4 Global Popular Culture and Self-Help

5 Lines of Conflict

6 Mapping and Comparing Social Space

7 The German Self-Help Field

8 Clashing into Germany’s Corporatist Welfare Regime

9 The Chinese Self-Help Field

10 Coexisting with China’s Institutional Authorities

11 Conclusion

Bibliography
Index

Readership

Scholars and students in sociology, communication studies, political science and global studies. Educated non-academics interested in the topics of cultural globalization or the interaction between elite and popular culture.

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