“A Dispirited visit to Waterstones”

Over on his The ‘God Blog’, Mel Thompson considers Dispirited in the light of a visit to Waterstones.

You can read the full piece over on his blog, but I was taken by his experience of looking for the Philosophy section of the bookshop:

One small section of shelving was labeled ‘Religions’ and it had a small selection of introductory titles, a modest selection of Bibles and prayer books, and displayed on the top, Alain de Botton’s Religion for Atheists. So far so predictable.  But next to those shelves was a huge block, three times as wide, devoted to the assorted nonsense called ‘Mind, Body, Spirit’ – the ever-expanding MBS of publisher/bookshop-speak. But where was the Philosophy section?  Tucked in the corner was a category called ‘Smart Thinking’, which did (thankfully, if I’m to supplement my modest pension) have a copy of my Understand Philosophy, along with some of the usual popular philosophy suspects, along with advice of perking up your capacity to think.

Philosophy seemed to have morphed into another aspect of MBS – when you’ve tried all the other spiritual therapies, how about perking up your mental abilities too!  All part of the spiritual supermarket; pick and mix and don’t think about any of it for too long!
This seems to match my experience, and I wonder if others have encountered the same…
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5 comments

  1. I agree and have observed a related phenomenon with Psychology in bookstores. There used to be a Psychology section which then became Popular Psychology and now MBS or New Age, also encompassing the related disciplines of Philosophy and Religion or Comparative Religions in some incoherent way. The old titles are no longer considered sufficiently attractive, I guess. You are just as likely to find books on religion next to Angel cards. It’s a mish mash and the buying policy is pretty unclear, but you can be fairly confident that if you are looking for a serious book, or an older book, you won’t find it.

    In general there seems to be a desire for quick fixes rather than a valuing of effort and the in-depth consideration/work that is required for deeper understanding and change. This is reflected in an attitude towards time, and an expectation that change can happen fast. While this is sometimes true, it is not always the case, and work that would previously have been understood to require an investment of time is now expected to take place in days or, in some cases, even hours, without any appreciation that the outcome will be (usually adversely) affected.

    I am enjoying your observations, thanks.

  2. I have learned to head for popular science in my local independent bookshop, to find what interests me. I will be interested to see where they place ‘Dispirited’ as there is no philosophy section. There is a large MBS section though. You may find yourself on the shelf next to Rudolf Steiner in this shop.

    1. If they stock it all! Let me know if there’s a sighting…

  3. The place to go is Blackwells in Oxford – it has an enormous religion section, an enormous science section, and nary a sniff of an MBS section. I agree that MBS sections have become increasingly cheesy and unbearable over the last decade or so, unless it’s just me getting more cynical.

  4. If ‘Philosophy’ is ‘Smart Thinking’…is everything else ‘Stupid Thinking’….seriously Waterstones?

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