Civilizing the Economy A New Economics of Provision

The Power of Negative thinking (A note for Newt Gingrich)

Posted Jan 22, 2012 by Marvin Brown in Uncategorized, 2 Comments

If there is an ounce of truth in the idea of American exceptionalism, it is our exceptional disdain for negative thinking.  In fact, the only thing one should be negative about is negative thinking.  But what is negative thinking: the opposite of positive thinking?  Isn’t it the case that positive and negative thinking belong together, and when they are separated, we move ourselves from the concrete circumstances in which we live to the abstract ideas into which we escape?

Thinking, at least the kind we need, is guided by experiencing.  The preachers of positive thinking, I believe, are actually afraid of concrete experiencing, especially when the experience might lead to some thought that had not been thought before.   New thoughts negate old thoughts.  That is their power.   They open a new field of vision that allows the viewer to see a different world

The preachers of positive thinking aim to manage our thoughts so that their thoughts will not be questioned—will not be negated.  They try to inspire us to be happy or at least satisfied with the way things are.  Positive thinking is a tool of the privileged, and those who represent the privileged, to maintain their privilege.

The real problem with positive thinkers is that they never repair anything, because they avoid anything that is broken.  The fact is we need to repair our roads and bridges.  We need to repair our schools.  We need to repair our economic system.  We need to repair our commons.  We need to repair the planet.  There is a lot of repairing to do.

There are really two options here.  We can either split apart positive and negative thinking, project negative thinking on our enemies, and then claim positive thinking for ourselves (American exceptionalism), or we can integrate them into the dialectic of experiencing and think together about what is wrong and how to make it right.

2 Responses to “The Power of Negative thinking (A note for Newt Gingrich)”

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Marvin T. Brown, Ph.D teaches business and organizational ethics at the University of San Francisco and Saybrook University in San Francisco.

This book is the culmination of 30 years of teaching and writing on business and society from a communicative perspective. Visit for more information.

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