Richard Sahn, instructor of sociology at Pennsylvania College of Technology, recently presented a paper, "The Problem with Horatio Alger Socialization: Why Students From Working-Class Families Identify With the 1 Percent," at a professional conference.
The presentation was made at the annual conference of the Pennsylvania Sociological Society on Oct. 13 at Penn State Schuylkill.
Sahn's paper discussed the contemporary impact of what is now considered the Horatio Alger myth - based on books by Horatio Alger Jr. in 1867 - of the promise of fulfilling "the American Dream" of economic success simply through hard work and "playing by the rules," regardless of external social and economic forces and circumstances.
Sahn equated the Alger stories with the culture of "positive thinking" today, as conveyed by Barbara Ehrenreich in her book, "Bright Side."
In the book, Ehrenreich argues that avoiding negative thoughts and feelings, as promoted by positive-thinking gurus, has become a substitute for political activism among people who are in a position to create the social and economic changes necessary to reduce human suffering, want and unnecessary death.
Sahn holds a doctorate in sociology. He teaches in Penn College's School of Integrated Studies.