Cruel Optimism


Cruel optimism exists when something you desire is actually an obstacle to your flourishing. People have remained attached to unachievable fantasies of the good life–with its promises of upward mobility, job security, political and social equality–despite evidence that liberal-capitalist societies can no longer be counted on to provide opportunities for individuals to make their lives ‘add up to something.'”

–Lauren Berlant, Cruel Optimism

Painting: Paul Klee


4 thoughts on “Cruel Optimism

  1. EricWK January 31, 2016 / 11:27 pm

    I can spot a Paul Klee from a mile away. LoL Your choice of painting image did draw me in. Nice verse.


    • C. Puls February 2, 2016 / 1:25 pm

      Glad you like the quote! Yes, Klee is definitely distinctive.


  2. UM February 1, 2016 / 1:07 pm

    I love the painting but I think I disagree with the quote. Maybe I just do not understand it. What prompted you to post it.


    • C. Puls February 2, 2016 / 1:41 pm

      I encountered it at an academic talk last week. The speaker claimed that the insistence and optimism of Dominican parents toward their children’s education can be “cruel optimism” because there is so much evidence that immigrant children, for a variety of reasons, do not succeed in school or even if they do, do not experience the full benefits of educational attainment.

      I’m not convinced about that argument. but I still see cruel optimism in NYC. A private personal trainer once told me that a common theme in his job is dissuading his married and wealthy but dissatisfied and discontent clients from trying to have an affair with him. The things we’re told will make us happy don’t necessarily do so.


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