Prof. Pamela Walker Laird: "Narratives of Self-made Men: The Evolution of an Illusion"

Business History Seminar

Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - 13:00 to 15:00

Prof. Pamela Walker Laird: "Narratives of Self-made Men: The Evolution of an Illusion"

One of America’s grand narratives proclaims that in the United States “rugged individuals” can triumph to become self-made successes. According to this myth, heroes succeed on their own merits and, therefore, deserve wealth, popular esteem, and public rewards. Pamela Laird has tracked the myth of worldly, self-made success to its origins in earlier traditions in which a self-made man developed his character and abilities in order to serve faith and community. She argues that materialistic notions of self-making grew in cultural influence through the nineteenth century by drawing on the legitimacy of the earlier, community-oriented concept of self-improvement. She hopes that recovering the altruistic roots of the self-made narrative and tracing how it evolved into its opposite can begin to reclaim self-making for collective benefit.

Pamela Laird is Professor of History at the University of Colorado Denver. Her research explores U.S. business cultures and their influences on marketing and personnel practices, as well as the intersection of business and political ideologies. Pamela Laird is the author of Advertizing Progress: American Business and the Rise of Consumer Marketing (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998) and Pull: Networking and Success Since Benjamin Franklin (Harvard University Press 2006), which won the 2006 Hagley Prize for the best book in Business History and is now available in Chinese. Professor Laird is co-editor of the University of Pennsylvania book series “American Business, Politics and Society” and a former president of the Business History Conference.

The page was last edited by: Department of Business Humanities and Law // 01/25/2024