Friday, January 4, 2013

Barbara Ehrenreich vs 'positive thinking'

Thank goodness Barbara Ehrenreich has written about a subject that has been grinding my gears for several years, the self-help industry and above all the odious ideology of 'positive thinking', i.e. the logic of laissez faire capitalism elevated to the supramundane level of metaphyics. While to some extent personal optimism can be a motivator to overcome the most egregious of obstacles, as the basis for a world view it is obscene. What personally gets you over is not the basis for the whole cosmos, and the universe is not everybody's friend, not yours either.

As usual, Adorno expresses the issue better than anyone:

Adorno on Truth, Survival, Consolation & Freedom of Thought

But back to Barbara. She's written a whole book on the subject:

Bright-sided: How Positive Thinking is Undermining America (2009)

I wouldn't call this "utterly original" as I've had exactly the same thoughts for years, but I also have not seen these thoughts expressed elsewhere in print. There are links to videos and other material on her site, but let me point out this essay:

Pathologies of hope by Barbara Ehrenreich, Harper's Magazine, February 1, 2007

But here is another video for your perusal. Barbara's talk is good, the comments not so much:

RSA Animate - Smile or Die

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