Cultures of Optimism: The Institutional Promotion of Hope

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9781137484802: Cultures of Optimism: The Institutional Promotion of Hope
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In the context of widespread intellectual pessimism, this book explores how individuals and societies sustain hope. It focuses, in particular, on the active role played by powerful institutions in the propagation of optimism. The cultures they promote offer visions of the future, which nurture hope and meaning, and exercise strong influences on how people act in the present. Yet these processes often go unobserved.

In this sequel to his acclaimed book on cultural pessimism, Oliver Bennett examines the institutional promotion of optimism in five different domains: democratic politics; work; the family; religion; and psychotherapy. In doing so, Bennett addresses a number of questions: what are the functions of optimism in modern societies? How and why do institutions promote it? What values and attitudes are involved? Drawing on a range of disciplines, including social and evolutionary psychology, intellectual history and organisational behaviour, this book throws new light on an important but neglected aspect of modern culture.

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About the Author:

Oliver Bennett is the author of Cultural Pessimism: Narratives of Decline in the Postmodern World. He is Professor of Cultural Policy at the University of Warwick and founding editor of the International Journal of Cultural Policy.
 

Review:

"A brilliant diagnosis of what optimism is and what it does in every aspect of human society, Bennett's book is a bold trans-disciplinary statement which clearly and vividly illustrates a crucial but very under-appreciated fact: the human being is essentially an optimistic animal." - David Inglis, University of Exeter, UK

"Bennett's Cultures of Optimism is a ground-breaking work on hope and optimism, topics that have been unduly neglected in sociology and cultural studies. Bennett exhibits impressive range as he explores the development and transmission of hope and optimism in politics, family life, the workplace, religious communities, and other cultural institutions. Best of all, he presents new theories and cutting-edge research in a style that is engaging and illuminating for all of us. This book will both ignite and set a high standard for future work on hope and optimism." - Sam Newlands, University of Notre Dame, USA

"Hats off to Oliver Bennett for this wide-ranging treatment of what makes us look forward positively in life. By addressing 'cultures of optimism' across some of the most fundamental institutional frames of our life experience, he has certainly broken out of any conventional corral of cultural policy and greatly extended how we might think about this field. This promises to be a significant cross-disciplinary and really thought-provoking book." - Philip Schlesinger, University of Glasgow, UK

"What makes Bennett's approach both original and distinctive is its application of modes of analysis from the humanities to a range of topics usually deemed to lie outside their sphere of competence. One of his concerns—exploring optimism as a cultural 'policy'—is especially rich, revealing cultural policy to be in fact a meta-discipline alongside, but quite distinct from, cultural studies and cultural history." - David Looseley, University of Leeds, UK

"Following Oliver Bennett's pioneering work on cultural pessimism, it is perhaps not surprising that he should turn his attention to the nature of optimism and hope. Arguing that the importance of institutions in processes of cultural transmission has gone largely unrecognised, the author analyses the role of institutional arrangements in the propagation of optimism. The exposition in this highly original work traverses an impressive range of disciplines including philosophy, psychology, sociology, comparative religion and organisational behaviour. The result is an elegantly written book that will appeal to a wide audience, from the specialist scholar to the general reader." - David Throsby, Macquarie University, Australia

"Oliver Bennett offers an accessible, cross-disciplinary survey of how philosophers, social scientists, religious authors, and popular writers think about hope, optimism, and related states. The primary focus throughout, however, is on the way that cultural institutions seek to promote a kind of hopefulness or optimism in their members. Bennett's probing analysis shows that this 'optimism imperative' in contemporary culture can at times be a double-edged sword." - Andrew Chignell, Cornell University, USA

 
 

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9781349503575: Cultures of Optimism: The Institutional Promotion of Hope

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