[Hac-announce] January 2015 Book Discussion: "Bright-Sided" by Barbara Ehrenreich

Kevin Gough or Paula Jones kvngough at aol.com
Wed Dec 24 15:54:41 EST 2014

Our first book of 2015 will be Barbara Ehrenreich's discussion of the history and effects of Americans' relentlessly upbeat attitude, Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking has Undermined America.

The author traces the strange career of Americans' 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. (Peak oil anyone?)

Ehrenreich exposes the downside of America’s penchant for positive thinking - self-blame on the personal level and irrational optimism resulting in disaster on the national level, in the process issuing an urgent call for a new commitment to realism.
From the Publisher's Weekly review: “Ehrenreich explores the insistence upon optimism as a cultural and national trait, discovering its ‘symbiotic relationship with American capitalism’ and how poverty, obesity, unemployment and relationship problems are being marketed as obstacles that can be overcome with the right (read: positive) mindset.”

Copies of the book are readily available in area libraries.

The discussion will take place on Saturday, January 17, 2015 at 2 pm in the library of the Unitarian Society of New Haven at 700 Hartford Turnpike, New Haven. Refreshments will be served.

(Note: Copies of David Niose's new book, Fighting Back the Right: Reclaiming America from the Attack on Reason, arrived to late for wide distribution before the January book discussion. The book will be the selection in either February or March and copies will be available for purchase at a discounted price at numerous upcoming HAC and HAH events.)
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