The Secret of Her Success: Oprah Winfrey and the Seductions of Self-Transformation Journal Article uri icon



  • This essay considers Oprah Winfrey’s rise from mere TV talk show host to global cultural icon in relationship to the rise in the 1980s and triumph in the 1990s of the neoliberal political-economic project. It argues that the expansion of Winfrey’s media enterprise and her ascent to iconic status are a product of the complex historical relationship between capitalism and the distinctly American fusion of psychology and religion captured by the term “mind cure.” Drawing on Raymond Williams’s sociology of culture approach, which looks for the “indissoluble connections between material production, political and cultural institutions and activity, and consciousness” (1977, 80) and Douglas Kellner’s (2003) method of “diagnostic critique,” the essay argues that situating Winfrey’s enterprise in relation to major currents in American political, economic and cultural history provides a means to critically examine the intersection of American politics and culture over the past quarter century. The essay explores tensions inherent in Oprah Winfrey’s professed mission to “empower” her followers — in which she routinely favors private initiatives and individual self-improvement over public funding and collective responsibility for societal needs, and thereby deflects attention from larger issues of social inequality and distributional politics — and considers the class and gender basis of the appeal of this project for her predominantly white, middle- and upper-middle class female following.

publication date

  • January 1, 2010

has restriction

  • closed

Date in CU Experts

  • December 7, 2017 1:16 AM

Full Author List

  • Peck J

author count

  • 1

Other Profiles

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0196-8599

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1552-4612

Additional Document Info

start page

  • 7

end page

  • 14


  • 34


  • 1