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 realismAmericans 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... show more
A sharp-witted knockdown of America’s love affair with positive thinking and an urgent call for a new commitment to realismAmericans 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.
Publish date: October 13th 2009
Publisher: Metropolitan Books
Pages no: 256
Edition language: English
When I picked Barbara Ehrenreich’s Bright-Sided up from the library, I was almost embarrassed to be seen with the book, even going so far as hiding the cover under those of the other books in my stack. The promotion of positivity is so pervasive in our society that I felt self-conscious checking out...
I sought this out after reading Ehrenreich's L.A. Times essay on her experience with breast cancer. The first chapter of this book is indeed called "Smile or Die: The Bright Side of Cancer." Because I'm shallow, I didn't find the transition from the personal to the political a smooth one. It works t...
Everyone who read and preaches The Secret and everyone in the Irish Government and senior Civil Service should be forcefed this book. Barbara Ehrenreich got breast cancer and got annoyed at the constant message of not letting it get you down (I had cancer too, I had a Doctor tell me that because I ...
Ehrenreich makes a solid case that the positive thinking movement is more harmful than helpful, especially when it leads to the converse of "The Secret"--that is, if people can attract good things by thinking positively, then people who have bad things happen to them must have been thinking too nega...
I didn't realize folks put so much faith in The Secret. . .