Barbara Ehrenreich's latest book indicts recent American tendencies toward "positive thinking" for its Calvinist roots, its Stalinist applications, and its utter lack of grounding in empirical evidence. Though Ehrenreich acknowledges the social utility and even intelligence of trying to get along with others, she suggests that relentless positive thinking in fact encourages people *not* to think of others, especially on a social level. If we're always tinkering with our own minds, trying to "attract" the right things or purge the "negative" people from our lives, how would anyone have time to change the society around them?
Ehrenreich's thoughtful skepticism and suspicion of claims that seem too good to be true are a breath of fresh air in this post-subprime-mortgage collapse era. Ever since hearing the This American Life shows on the economy, I can't think of it as an "economic" collapse without thinking of the subprime mortgage connection. She shows the seriously delusional thinking in corporate America that led to the economic Ponzie scheme, the consequences of which are now everywhere, and connects it to positive thinking self-help gurus who made millions "motivating" top corporate executives.
Perhaps my favorite aspect of this book is that it finally gives fodder for resisting new age bullies and judgmental optimism pushers who would have us blame our own attitudes for everything from cancer to defaulting on a mortgage. Bad things happen. We don't have mind control over the world. My own tests of this at the age of about six were enough to prove to me that I couldn't, say, control thunder with my mind. But apparently most corporate executives and a whole lot of other people who believe they can control things like money with their minds didn't perform these same tests.
I hope they read Ehrenreich's book so they can catch up.