Monday, February 08, 2016

Cult of personality

Carnegie’s metamorphosis from farmboy to salesman to public-speaking icon is also the story of the rise of the Extrovert Ideal. Carnegie’s journey reflected a cultural evolution that reached a tipping point around the turn of the twentieth century, changing forever who we are and whom we admire, how we act at job interviews and what we look for in an employee, how we court our mates and raise our children. America had shifted from what the influential cultural historian Warren Susman called a Culture of Character to a Culture of Personality—and opened up Pandora’s Box of personal anxieties from which we would never quite recover.

In the Culture of Character, the ideal self was serious, disciplined, and honorable. What counted was not so much the impression one made in public as how one behaved in private. The word personality didn’t exist in English until the eighteenth century, and the idea of “having a good personality” was not widespread until the twentieth.

But when they embraced the Culture of Personality, Americans started to focus on how other perceived them. They became captivated by people who were bold and entertaining. “The social role demanded of all in the new Culture of Personality was that of a performer,” Susman famously wrote. “Every American was to become a performing self.”— Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, page 21

<idle musing>
And we lost a lot! By the way, this book is well worth the read. I won't be excerpting anymore from it, but if you are an introvert you must read this book and if you are an extrovert, you should read this book—if only to realize that anywhere from 30–50% of the population is introverted.
</idle musing>

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