From Salvation to Self-Realization

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0From Salvation To Self-Realization: Advertising and the Therapeutic Roots of the Consumer Culture, 1880-1930 T. J. Jackson Lears Lears, T.J. Jackson 1983. From salvation to self-realization: Advertising and the therapeutic roots of the consumer culture, 1880-1930. In The Culture of Consumption: Critical Essays in American History, 18801980, ed. by Richard Wightman Fox and T.J. Jackson Lears, New York: Pantheon Books, 1-38. Reprinted with the permission of the author. 1"On or about December 1910," Virginia Woolf once said, "human character changed." This hyperbole contains a kernel of truth. Around the turn of the century a fundamental cultural transformation occurred within the educated strata of Western capitalist nations. In the United…show more content…
But my research in magazines, letters, and other cultural sources suggests that something was different about the latenineteenth-century United States. In earlier times and other places, the quest for health had occurred 2 within larger communal, ethical, or religious frameworks of meaning. By the late nineteenth century those frameworks were eroding. The quest for health was becoming an entirely secular and self-referential project, rooted in peculiarly modern emotional needs above all the need to renew a sense of selfhood that had grown fragmented, diffuse, and somehow "unreal" The coming of the therapeutic ethos was a modern historical development, shaped by the turmoil of the turn of the century. And the longings behind that ethos the fretful preoccupation with preserving secular well-being, the anxious concern with regenerating selfhood these provided fertile ground for the growth of national advertising and for the spread of a new way of life. 3 6In the emerging consumer culture, advertisers began speaking to many of the same preoccupations addressed by liberal ministers, psychologists, and other therapeutic ideologues. A dialectic developed between Americans' new emotional needs and advertisers, strategies; each continually reshaped and intensified the other. Sometimes deliberately, sometimes unwittingly, advertisers and therapists responded to
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