What Our Obsession With Steve Jobs Really Says About Our Culture

The Apple visionary may be the "rebel-hero" of our time.
We love Steve Jobs because he "bucked convention, pursued his passions, and got rich doing so," says professor Thomas Streete
We love Steve Jobs because he "bucked convention, pursued his passions, and got rich doing so," says professor Thomas Streeter, who's written about the Apple CEO's legacy.

Few cultural icons have inspired as much adoration -- and obsession -- as Steve Jobs.

The late Apple CEO has been celebrated in dozens of books, documentaries and feature films, including a new biopic starring Michael Fassbender. 

But why do we remain obsessed with this computer visionary and corporate executive, even several years after his death? 

"What sets Jobs apart from most earlier celebrity CEOs ... is that he emphasized passion, creativity, a kind of artistic sensibility, and a kind of rebellion against common ways of thinking," said Thomas Streeter, professor of sociology at the University of Vermont and the author of a new paper about Jobs' legacy, in an email to The Huffington Post. "Jobs was a romantic, a kind of Byronic character."

In other words, we love Jobs for his rebelliousness. He took LSD. He traveled through India. He practiced Zen meditation. He studied calligraphy. And above all, he showed us that passion really can change the world.

"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," Streeter said in an interview for the University of Vermont

In his email to HuffPost, he elaborated:

We’re generally taught that work life is a realm for calculation and suppression of emotions, that we should save the emotions for our therapists and our personal lives. The story of Steve Jobs represents passion as central to, of all things, the manufacture of computers. That touches a nerve. To people who feel constrained by their work lives, who feel they have to put their inner feelings on hold when they enter the office or the factory, the story of Jobs offers a glimpse of an intriguingly different way." 

In his iconic 2005 Stanford University commencement address -- which has now been viewed 23 million times on YouTube -- Jobs advised graduates to be relentless in the pursuit of their passions.

The key, he said, is remembering that you're going to die one day, and therefore, you really have nothing to lose. 

"You are already naked," Jobs told the audience. "There is no reason not to follow your heart."

After all, it might just lead you to invent the next iPhone.