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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 93 (next | show all)
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 |
For a book with such a "negative" title and purporting to contain many hard truths, this was a surprisingly funny, entertaining read! Ehrenreich has put together a compelling selection of essays, particularly the opening chapter with its personal anecdotes of her time in treatment for breast cancer and experiences with positive thinking induced blame for her own illness. I got a bit bogged down on the last couple of chapters as they got somewhat samey/repetative towards the end (particularly "Motivating business and the business of motivation" and "Positive psychology: the science of happiness"), but I thought it ended on a strong note (making sure not to promote pessimism or unrealistic negativity in the place of optimism, but rather critical thinking and realism) and would say that for anyone feeling contrary about "The Secret" and its ilk this is worthwhile! ( )
  okrysmastree | Oct 9, 2014 |
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?
Barbara Ehrenreich goes on to describe the history of positive thinking, it's dangerous likeness to corporate America and "religious" cults, reveals that these three things are not at all separate from each other.
As a cancer biologist, I must say I like the first chapter, as Ehrenreich describes the cultish attachment to positive thinking among cancer patients and "survivors" and the health industry. I also highly enjoyed the chapters on Christian positive thinking (mega churches...wow! really! they bring in that much money!) and of course, positive psychology.
In the end, my only complaint would be that Ehrenreich was too kind to some of the people who abuse the masses for their own profit and wealth (though perhaps the masses deserve to be exploited, if we are so dumb and ignorant). Perhaps Ehrenreich managed to be more unbiased than I am, and that's a good thing.
I now understand why and how being a realist started to be equal to "being negative" or "having a negative attitude." If I could just change my negative attitude and focus my mind to think real hard of the NY lottery... Wait, I won!!!! (no "I'm your long lost cousin, please give me some money" requests, please!) ( )
2 vote bluepigeon | Dec 27, 2013 |
After being diagnosed with breast cancer, and flunking out of various support groups for failing to see it as a gift, Ehrenreich sets out to investigate the notion of positive thinking and it’s effects on American society. She looks at a view of illness where the disease is primarily there to learn from – and where it’s probably your own fault if you don’t get well. She looks at religion where, as a loooong reaction to puritanism, a version of God as a wish-granting genie is handing ut success to those who pray hard enough. She looks at psychology which is only interested in removing symptoms. She looks at a one-sided love affiar with particle physics, which spawns ”scientific” methods like ”The secret”. She attends tons of depressing self-help-esteem-boosting-get-rich-quick seminars. And, perhaps most unsettling, she looks at a management philosophy which focuses on gut feeling and motivation rather than actual skills, driving American economy towards collapse.

Ehrenreich is tart, unflinchingly bitter and often funny. Many head-shakes and rolling eyes occur at the astonishing examples she presents. She’s also, I think, refreshingly open about her own position. I might feel she’s underplaying the benefits (on a much smaller scale) of a positive outlook, but her outspoken grumpyness is rather refreshing. In the end though, I feel perhaps the book is a little too repetitive. The points it makes are a bit too few. And dspite clocking in on just over 200 pages, it feels a little too long. Still, a recommended read, potentially eye opening. ( )
1 vote GingerbreadMan | Nov 5, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 93 (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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:04:57 -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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