Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America

[amazon template=image&asin=B006NXPUMG]

Bits of this were good but overall it’s not her best work. It’s an interesting attack on the bloated insistency on positive vibes, positive thinking, optimism. With this enforced viewpoint, we stumble blindly towards disaster, blithely ignoring warning signs of economic recession because of course the housing market can’t fail, etc.

The best parts of the book were the intro and the summation, and sandwiched in between were her story of wading through the pink paradise of surviving breast cancer, dealing with hyper-optimistic gurus who insist that all is cured with a flick of the mental switch, megachurches that more resemble corporations insisting that God wants you to be rich, and too much detail on the motivational speakers that made me want to crawl under the covers and never see the light of day again.

Ehrenreich discusses how positive thinking snuggles up quite closely to late capitalism’s insistence that we buy more and that corporations continue to always grow, fueling consumer society by saying that bygod we deserve newer/better electronics/cars/houses. “Perpetual growth, whether of a particular company or an entire economy, is of course an absurdity, but positive thinking makes it seem possible, if not ordained.”

The effect is seen in the economy, we spend a lot and save a little, never worrying about a rainy day that will never come. Good news– we do have “defensive pessimism” that keeps us safe, assuming that cars won’t stop at red lights or that engines may fail, otherwise we’d truly be living in a LALAland where nothing bad can ever happen (also why Ehrenreich says we were taken by surprise during 9/11 despite the many signs leading up to it).