A new paper, exploring America's obsession with stories about celebrity CEO's like Steve Jobs, has suggested that it says more about our culture than the man.
A new paper, exploring America’s obsession with stories about celebrity CEO’s like Steve Jobs, has suggested that it says more about our culture than the man.
The Steve Jobs movie, which opened in theaters on October 9, helps us imagine capitalism as being humane and having moral integrity as opposed to the speculative, predatory kind that reared its greedy head in 2008, as per study’s author.
Thomas Streeter of the University of Vermont wrote in ‘Steve Jobs, Romantic Individualism and the Desire for Good Capitalism’ that Jobs’ story fits perfectly with the romantic individualist story that American culture can’t seem to get enough, despite being yet another romanticized story about a well-known business celebrity.
“Jobs is an interesting character, but if we were choosing whose story to tell based on the importance of their inventions or business innovations, we’d be telling stories about other people like computer scientist Dennis Ritchie, who was central to the development of the software and concepts that made the internet possible, along with much of what makes your desktop computer, smartphone, and tablet work; or Douglas Engelbart, who re-conceptualized what computers could be used for back in the late 1960s, and who was the inventor of the mouse and the windowing interface. Either of them could be said to have invented more important things than Steve Jobs. But where are all the major Hollywood movies, documentaries and best-selling biographies about Ritchie or Engelbart and the dozens of other key inventors whose contributions were as or more essential than Jobs?”
There has to be another reason that the Steve Jobs story has been told over and over again since the 1980s instead of about men like Ritchie or Engelbart, says Streeter. “I think the reason is in our culture: we love the story of Jobs because we love the story of the guy who bucked convention, pursued his passions and got rich doing so.”
Stories like Jobs’ are perpetuated by capitalistic machinery that infuses romantic ways of thinking into all areas of society, according to Streeter. The current Steve Jobs craze, which took off in a big way after he stepped down from Apple in 2011, seems to prove the point about Byronic capitalism.
The institutional machinery devoted to producing celebrity CEO’s is in response to populist criticisms of modern corporations in hopes of making people feel good about a more moral Capitalistic system, writes Streeter.
The study appears in the International Journal of Communication.