The Art of Self-Improvement

Ten Timeless Truths

Anna Katharina Schaffner

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Self-help today is a multi-billion-dollar global industry, one often seen as a product of liberalism and capitalism. Far from being a recent phenomenon, however, the practice of self-improvement has a long and rich history, extending all the way back to ancient China. For millennia, philosophers, sages, and theologians have reflected on the good life and devised strategies on how to achieve it.
Focusing on ten core ideas of self-improvement that run through the world’s advice literature, Anna Katharina Schaffner reveals the ways they have evolved across cultures and historical eras, and why they continue to resonate with us today. Reminding us that there is much to learn from looking at time-honed models, Schaffner also examines the ways that self-improvement practices provide powerful barometers of the values, anxieties, and aspirations that preoccupy us at particular moments in time and expose basic assumptions about our purpose and nature.

Anna Katharina Schaffner is professor of cultural history at the University of Kent. She is the author of Exhaustion: A History and the novel The Truth about Julia. She lives in Canterbury in the UK.

“With remarkable range, this fascinating book brings alive new worlds of self-relations. It is inspiring both academically and personally.”—Greta Wagner, Technical University of Darmstadt
ISBN: 9780300247718
Publication Date: September 14, 2021
288 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4