34 pages 1 hour read

Chris Hedges

Empire Of Illusion: The End Of Literacy And The Triumph Of Spectacle

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 2009

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Chapter 4Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 4 Summary: “The Illusion of Happiness”

A man named David Cooperrider gives a lecture at the Claremont Graduate University. He is touting a theory of positive thinking that he calls “Transformational Positivity” (115). A key message suggests that, through optimism, organizations can bring about positive structural changes in the workplace. Cooperrider has many corporate clients, including The United Nations, Wal-Mart, and the U.S. Navy. He believes that “institutions can be a vehicle for bringing more courage into the world, for amplifying love in the world” (116).

Hedges calls positive psychology a “quack science” (117) that provides a cover for corporate abuse; he notes that those who endorse it are usually paid by corporations. Hedges describes a professor at Harvard named Dr. Tal D Ben-Shahar who teaches a popular course on positive psychology that “pumps out the catchy slogans and clichés that color all cheap self-improvement schemes” (118), linking corporate marketing jargon with the positive psychology movement.

Another speaker at the conference at the Claremont Graduate University is named Martin Seligman. Seligman announces that many large grants will be made available to researchers exploring the field of “positive neuroscience” (121). He hopes to locate where positivity resides in the brain and envisions schools where positive psychology has been incorporated into the curriculum.