Saturday, October 10, 2009

Bright-Sided, or The Perils of Positive Thinking

Patricia Cohen at The New York Times does a terrific feature on Barbara Ehrenreich's new book Bright-Sided, which looks at the role of positive thinking in the most recent economic debacle of boom and bust.

Irrational enthusiasms (some say "exuberance") is something that goes back at least to the dawn of global market economies — I'm thinking here of the 17th-century Dutch speculative trade in tulips, sometimes referred to as tulipomania.

But seldom has a boom-bust cycle has such a well-articulated ideology—captured in texts such as Rhonda Brynes' The Secret, or Esther and Jerry Hick's Ask and It Is Given—as has our recent run-up in uncollateralized derivatives and credit default swaps.

Ehrenreich unpacks the ideology of positive-thinking-lemons-to-lemonade-department-of-silver-linings in this important new book. And Patricia Cohen has shown a bright light on it.

(Full disclosure: Ehrenreich and I are part of an informal working group involved in the critique of improbable thinking.)


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