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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Suffering the 'Yoke' of Happiness, Nov. 10 2009
This review is from: Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America (Hardcover)
For those who feel that the self-help-spiritual gurus of The Secret fame were handing us a crock pot of crap, this is the book to read. Over the years, having worked in book stores, seeing the corporate side of the retail world (trying to smile during a downsize) as well as the charlatans of the New Age movement, this book was a welcome treat. For many years I've battled with the blinders of blatant optimism and for me, Ehrenreich has shown a spotlight on the yoke of happiness thinking.

It's not that being positive is completely blinding, it is just that there is a constant in-balance. A bright, shiny attitude is fine and dandy but let's be realistic about certain things. If you're driving through Hell, the last thing you want to do is ask for a blanket. The same thing goes for the commodity of the forced smile. When people are working overtime and holidays, afraid of the next lay off, how can people be happy? Ehrenreich addresses these issues, pointing her critical pen at the pink ribbon society of breast cancer alumni (the survivors vs. those who die, those who weren't positive 'enough'), the self-appointed gurus of optimism, corporate churches, and corporations hellbent of force feeding employees happiness (a negative attitude might lead to a firing).

We are complex creatures in a complex world and to go through life with a monotone emotion, we deny ourselves our humanity. She argues that we lose insight and direction if we befuddle ourselves with optimism. We lose our hold on life. Also, it was the Communist states of the former Eastern Bloc as much as Iran pre-1979 that manipulated its citizens to be happy and have a positive attitude.

This is a must read for those who feel nauseous at the end of forced happy endings in Hollywood films or find the Stepford wives creepy. This book offers more self-help than the self-help section - it advocates for reason and empiricism, not delusion and joy. If you can read this book, smile for the sake that you will no longer be bright-sided by the ongoing 'feel good B.S.' we are fed in this world.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ehrenreich does it again, July 31 2010
This review is from: Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America (Hardcover)
What to say about Barbara Ehrenreich except "Thank you!" I first read a few online articles from her a dozen years ago and was hooked. Then I read Nickel and Dimed, the best expose and analysis of the underclasses in the USA that I'm aware of. When I later read Bait and Switch, which demonstrated how the program in Nickel and Dimed had succeeded so well (in stealing the little the underclass had) that the ruling elites moved the program into the middle classes, I was shocked. The audacity by the elite classes was astounding and the carefully-constructed "acceptance" by the lower and middle classes was disheartening.
And now comes Bright-Sided, her effort to explain how the "positive psychology" movement has attempted to shift the blame of so much personal and societal anguish on to the shoulders of those who the trickery was foisted on, rather than on the true cause of the pain: a social system based on the economics of rob-from-the-poor-to-give-to-the-rich. She does it in her usually witty way, never failing to wince at the injustice while detailing it in sometimes savage prose. While not as personal as the other two books I noted (in which she lives and works with members of those classes), it is more probing of one of the tools that the elite use to get their way: make the robbed feel responsible for the robbery. As long as we have such a corrupt system there will never be a time we do not need such people as her.
On a final note I ask how much longer, in a shrinking world with a burgeoning human need-greed, can this go on?
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Negative Result of Positive Thinking, Sept. 29 2010
By 
Alison S. Coad (Montreal, Quebec, Canada) - See all my reviews
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Barbara Ehrenreich is one of my favourite investigative writers, partly because I tend to agree with her left-of-centre political take but mostly because she's a really interesting writer. Her latest book, Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking has Undermined America, deals with the whole concept of positive thinking in American society, from its historical roots as an answer to dour Calvinism to its relentless drive into the business world (where it essentially told workers, "if you're negative, you're out of here," while at the same time demanding that remaining workers cheerfully take on larger and larger amounts of work to be done in less and less time), to the "God wants you to be rich!" evangelical "religious" leaders (you know, those preachers who kind of forget to mention anything about Christianity and instead invoke God as a kind of magician, to whom you need only chant the right words in order to get everything you want in life), and finally to the cult of positivism that destroyed the financial system and the housing market in the US in 2007-2008. Perhaps Ehrenreich's greatest outrage is kept for the demands made of cancer patients (in particular, breast cancer patients as she herself was one of them) that they see their cancer as a positive opportunity in their lives and that they deny any negative feelings about their illness lest their negativity "contribute" to the disease. Provocative stuff, and thoughtfully and painstakingly laid out (complete with copious citations in the notes, something that the academic in me is a sucker for), and well worth reading. As someone once said, "if you're not pissed off, you're not paying attention," and I'm glad that there are still people like Ehrenreich around to remind us about everyday reasons to be angry about how our world works. Recommended!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, July 11 2014
By 
Opinionated :) (Edmonton, Alberta Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America (Hardcover)
Really good read - a little hard slogging at the beginning but a refreshing perspective. Thought provoking.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Bright-sided, April 5 2014
A well-written, well-researched and welcome alternative to the constant stream of popular psychology books exhorting us to think positively. Ehrenreich illustrates how the focus on individual responsibility for happiness takes the onus off of governments, corporations, professionals and the well-off, providing insight into who really benefits from positive psychology
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