the self-made man


These have not been good days for the self-made man. The very phraseology offends: in an age when even corporate titans ritualistically affirm the value of teamwork, “self-made” sounds unseemly. “What’s wrong with the ‘self-made’ theory? Everything,” says Mike Myatt, a prominent CEO consultant, in a 2011 article in Forbes, a publication where one might expect to see such a figure affirmed. “If your pride, ego, arrogance, insecurity, or ignorance keeps you from recognizing the contributions of others, then it’s time for a wake-up call,” he admonishes.1 In the 2012 book The Self-Made Myth, authors Brian Miller and Mike Lapham define the phrase as “the false assertion that individual and business success are entirely the result of the hard work, creativity, and sacrifice of the individual with little outside assistance.”2 Such objections do not even begin to broach the difficulties of a phrase like “self-made man” in a postfeminist era, when any generic citation of “man” is at best a faux pas. Given the institutional, much less biological, realities that govern our lives, the very idea of the self-made man sounds like a contradiction in terms. No man is “unaided” because every man is some mother’s son.

more from Jim Cullen at Hedgehog Review here.