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Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking Is…

Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America (original 2009; edition 2010)

by Barbara Ehrenreich

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Title:Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America
Authors:Barbara Ehrenreich
Info:Picador (2010), Edition: 1, Paperback, 256 pages
Collections:Your library

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Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America by Barbara Ehrenreich (2009)


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Showing 1-5 of 96 (next | show all)
Ehrenreich provides an antidote to everyone who believes that success is solely a result of attitude. From reading about people whose livelihoods were discarded during the Great Recession, it seems that many were demoralized by the popular perception that if only they had believed in themselves and worked harder, they could have avoided unemployment and financial ruin. The idea that individuals are solely responsible for the outcome of their lives atomizes us; it discourages us from working together to make broader social changes. I'm grateful that Ehrenreich can see these connections, from the obvious example of Oprah Winfrey espousing "The Secret" to Ehrenreich's own treatment for breast cancer, when she is shouted down by an online chorus after posting her honest feelings of anger and fear about her diagnosis.

The one element that I felt the book was lacking was more interviews with people who promote positive thinking -- or those who once believed it and have become disenchanted. Ehrenreich attends a speaker's conference and a megachurch, and has insightful observations, but I would have loved to hear from more of the attendees. ( )
  amymerrick | Jun 3, 2015 |
American culture is saturated in a surreal dedication to being upbeat. Nearly every adviser from your mother to boss will tell you to "think positive". But is this really good advice? Ehrenreich examines the consequences of blind positivity in a number of situations. Her conclusion? Well, it's not exactly positive.

It's a very interesting book, and a good dose of realism. My only detraction is the author seems a little embittered, but that might just have been the delivery from the audio book narrator. ( )
  Juva | Mar 26, 2015 |
Another brave undertaking by an insightful sociologist who somehow never lost her ability to write convincingly and engagingly in grad school. Don’t bother trying to persuade others to read this book, though—they’ll ask you to repeat the title and assume you are trying to make them unhappy. In fact, Ehrenrich is arguing for empiricism, a dose of reality in a world in which many believe that wealth can be got by simply thinking about how you deserve it. News flash to the idiot mob: the world is a mix of good and bad news and you aren’t going to be very effective at your job or in your life if you ignore contrary evidence and ostracize individual thought. If you manage to magically manifest some dollars for yourself, buy this book. ( )
  sixslug | Jan 18, 2015 |
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. ( )
  eaterofwords | Nov 16, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 96 (next | show all)
Vindicated at last! All of us misanthropic misery guts, whingers and whiners, Seroxat-refuseniks, "walking nimbus clouds"; we grouches, saddos, naysayers, demoralisers and party-poopers – our day has dawned. Time to gather and strike for the right to snigger, sulk and be sceptical, for the whole purpose of the cult of positive thinking is the beatification of bullshit.
added by fannyprice | editThe Guardian, Lucy Ellman (Jan 9, 2010)
I must confess, I have waited my whole life for someone to write a book like “Bright-Sided”... Now, in Barbara Ehrenreich’s deeply satisfying book, I finally have a moral defense for my apparent scowl.
The myth-busting Barbara Ehrenreich takes on the ``cult of cheerfulness'' in her latest book and shortly after diving into the icy plunge pool of Chapter One readers will find themselves asking: Can I really make it all the way through a screed that starts off with a roundhouse punch at the positive thinking of cancer patients?

You can. And you should.
[Ehrenreich's] argument has the makings of a tight, incisive essay. And each chapter eventually delivers a succinct reiteration of the central point. But this short book is also padded with cheap shots, easy examples, research recycled from her earlier books and caustic reportorial stalking. Ms. Ehrenreich starts out with her ideas firmly in place, then goes out hunting for crass, benighted individuals whose perniciousness helps her accentuate the negative.
While Ehrenreich is entertaining and instructive as she has been in the past, "Bright-Sided" is probably her least persuasive book.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805087494, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:19 -0400)

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A sharp-witted knockdown of America's love affair with positive thinking and an urgent call for a new commitment to realism, existential clarity and courage.

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