At the turn of the 1970’s, sensitivity groups, popular encounters and the divorceé were in the zeitgeist. Group therapies of the 70’s preached a gospel of modern individualism– it was a church of the self. Many therapies of this era rebelled against institutional power relations– including those of traditional mental health structures– in favor of private support mechanisms which organized individual authenticity and confessional as a consumable product. Therapeutic theories of self-empowerment would accelerate movements such as Esalen, EST, even Transcendental Meditation (TM) practices which emphasized (and sold) personal experience over social change. I believe we find precursors to Gordon Geeko’s ‘Greed is Good’ in these earlier movements which turned away from political organizing and institutional engagement; ‘selfishness’ a complete obsession with the self was good. Radical individualism fit firmly within the logics of a shifting capitalism in crisis of the 1970s.
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