THE modern "tyranny" of positive thinking is the true cause of the global financial crisis, an American author claims.
The belief that everything will turn out all right in the end if we remain optimistic is "delusional", says Barbara Ehrenreich.
What began as a 19th-century "quack theory" has become the dominant mode of thinking in the US, she says. It influences everything from business decisions to cancer treatment. Ehrenreich's book, 'Smile Or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World', sets out to demolish the "distinctive American ideology of positive thinking".
Speaking ahead of the book's publication next week, Ehrenreich said: "Delusion is always dangerous and the big example I would give of that is the 2008 financial meltdown. There are many things that fed into that. Many people got way over their heads in debt -- ordinary people. And in what frame of mind do you assume large amounts of debt? Well, a positive frame of mind. You think that you're not going to get sick, your car's not going to break down, you're not going to lose your job and you're going to be able to pay it off.
"Mostly, though, I blame the top levels of corporate culture which, by the middle of this decade, were completely in a bubble of mandatory positive thinking." Ehrenreich referred to the "cult-like atmosphere of high-fives" at Countrywide, the mortgage lender that became one of the biggest casualties of the crisis. She said executives who sounded warnings of impending financial disaster at Lehman Brothers were dismissed as "negative" thinkers.
"Corporate America had gone into this bubble of denial," she said. Ehrenreich began investigating the "positive thinking" industry after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000 but became dismayed by "the cheerfulness of breast cancer culture", with its "sappy pink ribbons".
"There's a widespread idea that your immune system will be boosted if you are thinking positively," she said. "Well, there's not a whole lot to support that." (© Daily Telegraph, London)