Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America
A sharp-witted knockdown of America’s love affair with positive thinking and an urgent call for a new commitment to realism
Americans are a “positive” people—cheerful, optimistic, and upbeat: this is our reputation as well as our self-image. But more than a temperament, being positive, we are told, is the key to success and prosperity.
In this utterly original take on the American frame of mind, Barbara Ehrenreich traces the strange career of our sunny outlook from its origins as a marginal nineteenth-century healing technique to its enshrinement as a dominant, almost mandatory, cultural attitude. Evangelical mega-churches preach the good news that you only have to want something to get it, because God wants to “prosper” you. The medical profession prescribes positive thinking for its presumed health benefits. Academia has made room for new departments of “positive psychology” and the “science of happiness.” Nowhere, though, has bright-siding taken firmer root than within the business community, where, as Ehrenreich shows, the refusal even to consider negative outcomes—like mortgage defaults—contributed directly to the current economic crisis.
With the mythbusting powers for which she is acclaimed, Ehrenreich exposes the downside of America’s penchant for positive thinking: On a personal level, it leads to self-blame and a morbid preoccupation with stamping out “negative” thoughts. On a national level, it’s brought us an era of irrational optimism resulting in disaster. This is Ehrenreich at her provocative best—poking holes in conventional wisdom and faux science, and ending with a call for existential clarity and courage.
What people are saying - Write a review
LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - eaterofwords - LibraryThing
An excellent subject but the delivery was repetitive; I could have stopped reading after the first couple chapters and come away with what I did after finishing the book. Read full review
LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - bluepigeon - LibraryThing
I have never won the lottery. And clearly, this is because I have never really wanted to win the lottery. And when my friend got cancer, it was because she wanted it, and really, it is a gift, no ... Read full review
The Bright Side of Cancer
two The Years of Magical Thinking
three The Dark Roots of American Optimism
four Motivating Business and the Business of Motivation
five God Wants You to Be Rich
The Science of Happiness
seven How Positive Thinking Destroyed the Economy
eight Postscript on Post Positive Thinking