More on Ehrenreich

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12 Nov 2009

More on Barbara Ehrenreich’s critique of the happiness obsession (see 7 November post). An extract from her speech on the subject to the Commonwealth Club of California is available on

Some of the points she makes are sensible. For example, the bizarre view that those who have serious diseases, such as cancer, should be positive about their condition. Similarly the argument that those who are unemployed or poor should be positive rather than angry.

However, she is wrong to blame the economic crisis on positive thinking. Essentially this assumes that over-ambition causes the crisis. It easily spills into a critique of ambition and is also incredibly superficial.

She also misses the pervasiveness of social pessimism that exists despite the contemporary emphasis on positive thinking.

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