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

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Synopsis

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.

 

About Barbara Ehrenreich

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Barbara Ehrenreich is the bestselling author of Nickel and Dimed, Bait and Switch, Bright-sided, This Land Is Their Land, Dancing in the Streets and Blood Rites, among others. A frequent contributor to Harper's and The Nation, she has also been a columnist at The New York Times and Time magazine. She is the winner of the L.A. Times Book Prize for Current Interest and ALA Notable Books for Nonfiction.  Ehrenreich was born in Butte, Montana, when it was still a bustling mining town. She studied physics at Reed College, and earned a Ph.D. in cell biology from Rockefeller University. Rather than going into laboratory work, she got involved in activism, and soon devoted herself to writing her innovative journalism. She lives and works in Florida.
 
Published October 12, 2009 by Metropolitan Books. 252 pages
Genres: Health, Fitness & Dieting, Literature & Fiction, Self Help, Political & Social Sciences, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Accomplished social critic Ehrenreich (This Land Is Their Land: Reports from a Divided Nation, 2008, etc) eviscerates the positive-thinking movement, which she blames for encouraging us to “deny reality, submit cheerfully to misfortune, and blame only ourselves for our fate.” The author argues th...

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The New York Times

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An argument that can-do optimism has hardened into a suffocating force that bears little relation to genuine happiness.

Nov 08 2009 | Read Full Review of Bright-sided: How the Relentl...

The New York Times

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When Barbara Ehrenreich became a breast cancer patient, she found herself infuriated by the disease’s upbeat, infantilizing culture of pink ribbons and teddy bears.

Oct 11 2009 | Read Full Review of Bright-sided: How the Relentl...

BC Books

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For example, where is the chapter entitled "The positive side to positive thinking"?

Apr 14 2010 | Read Full Review of Bright-sided: How the Relentl...

BC Books

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This distinction is crucial because, if you strip out the mystical belief (law of attraction) from the cognitive skill (a flexible perspective), advocates for the law of attraction aren't as widespread as Ehrenreich claims.

Apr 14 2010 | Read Full Review of Bright-sided: How the Relentl...

BC Books

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Then, addressing positive thinking, she goes on to make it clear that she isn't disputing the self-evident fact that positive people are more likely to make friends, form successful business relationships and brighten a room when they walk through the door.

Apr 14 2010 | Read Full Review of Bright-sided: How the Relentl...

The Wall Street Journal

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Ehrenreich delves into the long history of positive thinking in America, which might be summarized thus: dour 18th-century Calvinism begat floaty 19th-century New Thought, which begat 20th-century New Ageism, Norman Vincent Peale and today's mega-church "prosperity gospel."

Oct 11 2009 | Read Full Review of Bright-sided: How the Relentl...

The Washington Post

The book review incorrectly described the Templeton Foundation as funding the Proposition 8 campaign to overturn California's law allowing same-sex marriage.

Nov 15 2009 | Read Full Review of Bright-sided: How the Relentl...

Christian Science Monitor

Michael Moore and Barbara Ehrenreich may be soul mates.

Oct 26 2009 | Read Full Review of Bright-sided: How the Relentl...

USA Today

With a refreshingly caustic tone, Barbara Ehrenreich takes on the relentlessly upbeat attitude many Americans demand of themselves and, more damagingly, of o...

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Pajiba

You see, the problem with this ‘positive thinking’ is not so much that it encourages people to think positively, as that it correlates positive thoughts with positive outcomes in such a way that not only are we being told that positive thoughts, not hard work and sometimes luck will result in pos...

Feb 24 2010 | Read Full Review of Bright-sided: How the Relentl...

Daily Kos

- Schmidting in the Punch Bowl - verb - Committing an unexpected and underhanded political act intended to "spoil the party."

Jul 25 2013 | Read Full Review of Bright-sided: How the Relentl...

Blogger News Network

The North American Neuro-Ophthalmology Society recently issued the following carefully worded statement about rehabilitation techniques for people with visual field loss, “Affected people are often enthusiastic about them but this usually is true in rehabilitation studies, and telling the differe...

Oct 14 2009 | Read Full Review of Bright-sided: How the Relentl...

Daily Kos

Not saying that that's ALL a person should do, of course, but sometimes it's really - dare I say it - FUN.

Nov 29 2009 | Read Full Review of Bright-sided: How the Relentl...

Bookmarks Magazine

Barbara Ehrenreich is the author of many works of social criticism, including Nickel and Dimed (2001) and Bait and Switch ( 3.5 of 5 Stars Nov/Dec 2005).

Oct 11 2009 | Read Full Review of Bright-sided: How the Relentl...

New York Magazine

Her new book, Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America, was initially inspired by her resistance to the cancer-gives-my-life-meaning trope, which was inflicted on her when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000.

Aug 23 2009 | Read Full Review of Bright-sided: How the Relentl...

truthdig

So, people should get to stay in $350,000 homes, while they only bring home $3000/mo., but thought they’d get to re-finance to pay the balloon payment, or resell before the balloon payment came due and got stuck when the bubble popped, is that what you’re proposing?

Sep 01 2009 | Read Full Review of Bright-sided: How the Relentl...

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