The Self-Help Movement

Overview

By its very definition, self-help suggests a person's autonomous effort to solve a problem. Yet, as Alfred H. Katz argues in this sociohistorical introduction to the self-help culture, what links America's diverse self-help organizations is the shared belief that the group experience itself allows the individual to work through his or her problem and live a normal life. Taking personal testimonials in tandem with scholarly research, Katz analyzes what he calls the "phenomenon" of self-help in the United States, ...
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Overview

By its very definition, self-help suggests a person's autonomous effort to solve a problem. Yet, as Alfred H. Katz argues in this sociohistorical introduction to the self-help culture, what links America's diverse self-help organizations is the shared belief that the group experience itself allows the individual to work through his or her problem and live a normal life. Taking personal testimonials in tandem with scholarly research, Katz analyzes what he calls the "phenomenon" of self-help in the United States, where possibly as many as 730,000 such groups with at least 10 to 15 million members currently operate. That programs managed by human-services professionals and agencies have failed to address particular public needs is attested to by the rapid rate at which self-help groups have been forming over the last 20 years, according to Katz. Although Katz uses social movement criteria in looking at why and how self-help groups work, he notes that the huge diversity among such groups and their lack of a unifying political force renders the description social trend more accurate. To highlight the respective characteristics of the two main types of self-help groups, 12-step and non-12-step, Katz compares a successful example of the former - Adult Children of Alcoholics - with one of the latter - the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. The ideology of Alcoholics Anonymous - that personal change can only be achieved through spiritual belief or conversion, as reflected in its listing of the 12 steps members must take toward recovery from addiction - is where the first category gets its name. This type of group's near-universal meeting format and rituals, and its refrain from engaging in any sociopolitical activity, stands in marked contrast to non-12-step groups, which do not expect their members to pursue a phased path of personal growth and change and whose structures vary considerably. In addition to exploring the leadership, ideology, and growth patterns of
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Editorial Reviews

Mary Carroll
Some 10 to 15 million Americans belong to one or another of the nation's 500,000 to 750,000 self-help groups. Katz, professor emeritus at UCLA's Schools of Public Health and Social Welfare, has consulted on self-help programs (for the World Health Organization, Ford Foundation, and government agencies), and written a half-dozen books on the subject over the past 30 years. Katz distinguishes between 12-step and non-12-step groups as a basic organizing principle, then studies self-help groups from many angles: their common traits, sources of effectiveness, patterns of leadership, growth, ideology, and interactions with related professions. He also analyzes cases and considers the role of populism and social action within self-help groups, and the effect such groups have on public policy. In general, Katz concludes, self-help groups are more a social "trend" than a social "movement"; however, groups formed by and for disabled persons and the elderly fit the classic model of an "instrumental" social movement, while some 12-step groups--with their focus on personal rather than social change--seem to embody Herbert Blumer's idea of "expressive" social movements. Though its approach is fairly academic, "Self-Help in America"'s perspective should intrigue many participants in and observers of the self-help phenomenon.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805738773
  • Publisher: Macmillan Publishing Company, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 12/1/1992
  • Series: Social Movements past and Present Series
  • Pages: 250
  • Product dimensions: 5.71 (w) x 8.83 (h) x 0.65 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface
1 Introduction 1
2 The Two Primary Types of Self-Help Groups 9
3 Common Characteristics of Self-Help Groups 22
4 What Makes Self-Help Groups Work? 32
5 Case Studies of Two Successful Groups 42
6 Leadership, Growth Patterns, and the Role of Ideology 59
7 Relations between Self-Help Groups and Professionals 70
8 Populism and Social Action in Self-Help Groups 82
9 Self-Help Groups and Public Policy 92
10 Self-Help as a Social Movement 103
Appendix 111
Notes 113
Bibliography 120
Index 125
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