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How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America

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Paperback published by Picador (Picador)

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A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Americans are a "positive" people -- cheerful, optimistic, and upbeat: This is our reputation as well as our self-image. But more than a temperament, being positive is the key to getting success and prosperity. Or so we are told.

In this utterly original debunking, Barbara Ehrenreich confronts the false promises of positive thinking and shows its reach into every corner of American life, from Evangelical megachurches to the medical establishment, and, worst of all, to the business community, where the refusal to consider negative outcomes--like mortgage defaults--contributed directly to the current economic disaster. With the myth-busting powers for which she is acclaimed, Ehrenreich exposes the downside of positive thinking: personal self-blame and national denial. This is Ehrenreich at her provocative best--poking holes in conventional wisdom and faux science and ending with a call for existential clarity and courage.

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A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Americans are a "positive" people -- cheerful, optimistic, and upbeat: This is our reputation as well as our self-image. But more than a temperament, being positive is the key to getting success and prosperity. Or so we are told.

In this utterly original debunking, Barbara Ehrenreich confronts the false promises of positive thinking and shows its reach into every corner of American life, from Evangelical megachurches to the medical establishment, and, worst of all, to the business community, where the refusal to consider negative outcomes--like mortgage defaults--contributed directly to the current economic disaster. With the myth-busting powers for which she is acclaimed, Ehrenreich exposes the downside of positive thinking: personal self-blame and national denial. This is Ehrenreich at her provocative best--poking holes in conventional wisdom and faux science and ending with a call for existential clarity and courage.

Product Details
Paperback (256 pages)
Published: August 3, 2010
Publisher: Picador
Imprint: Picador
ISBN: 9780312658854
Other books byBarbara Ehrenreich
  • Dancing in the Streets

    Dancing in the Streets
    A History of Collective Joy
    "Fascinating . . . An admirably lucid, level-headed history of outbreaks of joy from Dionysus to the Grateful Dead."--Terry Eagleton, The Nation Widely praised as "impressive" (The Washington Post Book World), "ambitious" (The Wall Street Journal), and "alluring" (The Los Angeles Times), Dancing in the Streets explores a human impulse that has been so effectively suppressed that we lack even a term for it: the desire for collective joy, historically expressed in revels of feasting, costuming, and dancing.   Drawing on a wealth of history and anthropology, Barbara Ehrenreich uncovers the origins of communal celebration in human biology and culture. From the earliest orgiastic Mesopotamian rites to the medieval practice of Christianity as a "danced religion" and the transgressive freedoms of carnival, she demonstrates that mass festivities have long been central to the Western tradition. In recent centuries, this festive tradition has been repressed, cruelly and often bloodily. But as Ehrenreich argues in this original, exhilarating, and ultimately optimistic book, the celebratory impulse is too deeply ingrained in human nature ever to be completely extinguished.

    Nickel and Dimed

    Nickel and Dimed
    On (Not) Getting By in America
    Our sharpest and most original social critic goes "undercover" as an unskilled worker to reveal the dark side of American prosperity. Millions of Americans work full time, year round, for poverty-level wages. In 1998, Barbara Ehrenreich decided to join them. She was inspired in part by the rhetoric surrounding welfare reform, which promised that a job -- any job -- can be the ticket to a better life. But how does anyone survive, let alone prosper, on $6 an hour? To find out, Ehrenreich left her home, took the cheapest lodgings she could find, and accepted whatever jobs she was offered. Moving from Florida to Maine to Minnesota, she worked as a waitress, a hotel maid, a cleaning woman, a nursing-home aide, and a Wal-Mart sales clerk. She lived in trailer parks and crumbling residential motels. Very quickly, she discovered that no job is truly "unskilled," that even the lowliest occupations require exhausting mental and muscular effort. She also learned that one job is not enough; you need at least two if you int to live indoors. Nickel and Dimed reveals low-rent America in all its tenacity, anxiety, and surprising generosity -- a land of Big Boxes, fast food, and a thousand desperate stratagems for survival. Read it for the smoldering clarity of Ehrenreich's perspective and for a rare view of how "prosperity" looks from the bottom. You will never see anything -- from a motel bathroom to a restaurant meal -- in quite the same way again.

    This Land Is Their Land

    This Land Is Their Land
    Reports from a Divided Nation
    America in the ’aughts—hilariously skewered, brilliantly dissected, and darkly diagnosed by one of the country’s most prominent social critics Now in paperback, Barbara Ehrenreich’s widely acclaimed This Land Is Their Land takes the measure of what we are left with after the cruelest decade in memory and finds lurid extremes all around. While members of the moneyed elite have bought up congressmen, many in the working class can barely buy lunch. While a wealthy minority obsessively consumes cosmetic surgery, the poor often go without health care for their children. And while the Masters of the Universe have thrown themselves into the casino economy, the less fortunate have been fed a diet of morality, marriage, and abstinence. With perfect satiric pitch, Ehrenreich reveals a country scarred by deepening inequality, corroded by distrust, and shamed by its official cruelty. Full of wit and generosity, these reports from a divided nation—including new and unpublished essays—confirm once again that Ehrenreich is, as the San Francisco Chronicle proclaims, “essential reading.”

    Bait and Switch

    Bait and Switch
    The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream
    The New York Times bestselling investigation into white-collar unemployment from “our premier reporter of the underside of capitalism”—The New York Times Book Review Americans’ working lives are growing more precarious every day. Corporations slash employees by the thousands, and the benefits and pensions once guaranteed by “middle-class” jobs are a thing of the past. In Bait and Switch, Barbara Ehrenreich goes back undercover to explore another hidden realm of the economy: the shadowy world of the white-collar unemployed. Armed with the plausible résumé of a professional “in transition,” she attempts to land a “middle-class” job. She submits to career coaching, personality testing, and EST-like boot camps, and attends job fairs, networking events, and evangelical job-search ministries. She is proselytized, scammed, lectured, and—again and again—rejected. Bait and Switch highlights the people who have done everything right—gotten college degrees, developed marketable skills, and built up impressive résumés—yet have become repeatedly vulnerable to financial disaster. There are few social supports for these newly disposable workers, Ehrenreich discovers, and little security even for those who have jobs. Worst of all, there is no honest reckoning with the inevitable consequences of the harsh new economy; rather, the jobless are persuaded that they have only themselves to blame. Alternately hilarious and tragic, Bait and Switch, like the classic Nickel and Dimed, is a searing exposé of the cruel new reality in which we all now live.

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  • Americans are a "positive" people.

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  • We will not succeed at all these things, certainly not all at once, but--if I may end with my own personal secret of happiness--we can have a good time trying.

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