More from Barbara Ehrenreich

Barbara EhrenreichHaving just written a bit about Barbara Ehrenreich I was taken aback when I opened my newly arrived copy of Harper’s Magazine this evening and found that she had written one of the lead articles. It is a very interesting piece written in opposition to ideas associated with the rapidly growing field of Psychology called Positive Psychology. Her basic argument is that by putting the onus on individuals to believe in their ability to think positively and thereby overcome their problems, social problems remain unaddressed and the status quo unthreatened. Here is an excerpt which sounds remarkably like Cushman describing Mesmerism (pp. 123 -127).

…the Cult of Positivity demands not only acts but faith. It’s not enough to manifest positivity through a visibly positive attitude; you must establish it as one of the very structures of your mind, whether or not it is justified by the actual circumstances. Some gurus attempt to dodge the potential conflict with reality by attributing to positive thoughts the power to control the outer world through a “Law of Attraction,” as yet unknown to physicists, whereby thoughts somehow produce their material counterparts in the outer world. The 2005 book Secrets of the Millionaire Mind, for example, explains that the universe “is akin to a big mailorder department….You ‘order’ what you get by sending energetic messages out to the universe based on your predominant beliefs.

The founder of Positive Psychology is Martin Seligman who first became well known for his studies with dogs on learned helplesness. Barbara Ehrenreich has a blog with links to other books she has written at Here is the full reference for the Harper’s article:

Ehrenreich, B. (February, 2007). Pathologies of Hope. Harper’s Magazine, 314(1881), 9-11.

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