Publication Date 08 April 2021

Humanities and Non-Fiction


A short and compelling text denouncing the trend in "personal development".

In bookstores, self-help books are top sellers. Thierry Jobard, author and head of the humanities department of a large Strasbourg bookstore, has watched the Self-Help section double in the last few years. "When I started reading these books, I realized that things are much worse than I ever imagined! People need to be really unhappy to turn to them," he explains.
This is what motivated him to write his critical essay Against Personal Development (Contre le développement personnel), which, according to him, "exacerbates individualism and diverts people away from collective engagement." 
"In this wonderful world we live in, everything revolves around this axiom: 'where there is a will, there is a way'. And if we can't achieve something, it's because we don't want it badly enough. The collective is replaced by individuals who are 100% responsible for everything: their destiny, their jobs, and even their health! (…) As though it were only up to us to change the course of our lives," says Thomas Bout, who edited this book. It is part of the "Les Incisives" collection which is for short shocking texts by authors who write on current issues and contribute to the return of public debate.
For Thierry Jobard, a specialist in philosophy, sociology and psychology, the reality behind the theme of personal development is much less illustrious than it seems. "We are seeing the emergence of psychologists and therapists who do not seek to help their patients get to know themselves better but instead offer quick solutions to 'reboost' them. That their challenges may be due to more profound issues, is not even in play here. Today, we think only in terms of problem = solution," continues the essayist.

 "Often funny, this little book convincingly shows that personal development is a neoliberal device for domesticating people," analyses Le Monde diplomatique.
The book, now in its fifth printing, has sold 8,000 copies in France. "What is also surprising is that the theme and this book are still getting press coverage," says publisher Thomas Bout, who sold the translation rights to this work in Spain and Chile.
In his second book, I Believe Therefore I Am (Je crois donc je suis, Rue de l'échiquier, 2023), Thierry Jobard continues his investigation and denounces the ins and outs of esotericism.

Katja Petrovic
July 2024