I interviewed Barbara on a snowy evening in Bristol last month before she appeared at the Festival of Ideas to explore her thesis that the relentless promotion of positive thinking is undermining America and its effects are being felt all round the world.
If you’re unconvinced that positive thinking is creeping into more and more areas of life, here are some facts with which I began my article:
“George W Bush was head football cheerleader in his senior year at prep school. The most popular course offered by Harvard University in 2006 was positive psychology. The total US market for “self-improvement products” in 2005 was estimated at $9.6bn. Last month, during the Haitian earthquake, the top international story on happynews.com – which publishes only good news – was “Prince William attracts crowd in New Zealand”. There are at least four different species of breast cancer awareness teddy bears. Sales of the self-help book The Secret (2006) (“the secret gives you anything you want: happiness, health and wealth”) by former Melbourne TV producer Rhonda Byrne exceed 7 million.”
Listen to the podcast by clicking here to make up your own mind whether there is something here to be worried about.
My guest in this first Le Monde diplomatique podcast of 2010 is Michael Klare, professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College, Amherst, Massachusetts.
In his article in the January edition of the paper, “US turns persuader not policeman”, Professor Klare asks whether disappointment with the first year of Obama’s foreign policy is the right reaction, or whether we ought instead to see “smart power” as a pragmatic response to the US’s diminished role as world superpower – “assertiveness in the face of decline”.
In the interview we talk about the challenge posed by Iran to US smart power and also its implications for the domestic political landscape in the US.
In the podcast I talk to Alterman about his article in this month’s edition of LMD: “Support Israel through Criticism”, which looks at the rise of J Street, an American Jewish lobby that supports a sane and reasonable peace with the Palestinians.