Cruel Optimism and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more
Buy New
  • List Price: $24.95
  • Save: $2.91 (12%)
FREE Shipping on orders over $35.
In Stock.
Ships from and sold by
Gift-wrap available.
Trade in your item
Get a $8.50
Gift Card.
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

Cruel Optimism Paperback – October 27, 2011

See all 4 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price New from Used from
"Please retry"
"Please retry"
$20.71 $19.97
Unknown Binding
"Please retry"

Frequently Bought Together

Cruel Optimism + The Affect Theory Reader + Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity (Series Q)
Price for all three: $62.70

Buy the selected items together

Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought


Looking for the Audiobook Edition?
Tell us that you'd like this title to be produced as an audiobook, and we'll alert our colleagues at If you are the author or rights holder, let Audible help you produce the audiobook: Learn more at

Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books (October 27, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822351110
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822351115
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #43,643 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“Lauren Berlant is not shitting on you or your dream. OK, yes, her latest book is called Cruel Optimism. . . . . Yes, the University of Chicago professor will break down everything you hold dear: food, love, politics, family, virtuous New Year’s resolutions. And yes, within a few pages, there’s that creeping sensation that, whatever makes you tick, it’s got you on the fast track to ruin and disappointment. . . . Nevertheless . . . Cruel Optimism is less brutal analysis than a dark, lush still-life of American fantasies and our Quixotic lunges toward them. An affective portrait of the 99%.” - Caitlin Hu, Bitch

“This is Berlant at her most revolutionarily queer, questioning what would happen if we stopped thinking of ourselves in terms of identity categories, and instead reorganized our sense of self around the specific objects and ideas to which we are attached and the affects that they produce in us.” - Chase Dimock, Lambda Literary Review

Cruel Optimism is a must read for any scholar interested in exploring the affective dimensions of precarity. . . . Cruel Optimism does precisely what Berlant’s work always does - it changes the conversation in such a way that it makes you wonder why we weren’t talking about these things all along.” - Anna E. Ward, New Formations

“If you are looking for some new language to use to describe the current crisis of hope, read Cruel Optimism. . . . It is a wild, deeply witty examination of our attachments to food, love, politics, family, and pop culture.” - Kate Clinton, The Progressive

Cruel Optimism, Lauren Berlant’s brilliant new book, lays bare the price of our habitual ways of thinking about subjectivity, temporality, affect, attachment, and political investment. Exploring the condition of precarity that mocks the good life (or at least the better life) that hard work and good behavior are supposed to make possible within liberal democracy, Berlant’s bold analyses of the impasse of the present and her unflinching determination to follow a thought to its necessary end make clear why this is a crucial, indeed a necessary, book at this moment—and also why it will inform our critical discourse for years to come.”—Lee Edelman, author of No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive

“Lauren Berlant elegantly weaves together readings of contemporary art, literature, and film to reveal how our persistent aspirations for the good life are continually thwarted. Reading this book is an exciting theoretical experience but it also has a very practical, immediate, everyday quality. Berlant gives us something like a how-to guide for living in the impasse, that is, the affective and political conditions of our present.”—Michael Hardt, co-author of Commonwealth

“This brilliant book will be much read and much cited. Lauren Berlant is widely regarded as one of the most important and original critics of contemporary cultural logics. Here she offers a genuinely new angle on familiar processes through her subtle yet forceful reading of cruel optimism, the psychic and structural dynamics that keep people proximate to objects, fantasies, and worlds that seem to diminish them.”—Sara Ahmed, author of The Promise of Happiness

About the Author

Lauren Berlant is George M. Pullman Professor of English at the University of Chicago. She is the author of The Female Complaint: The Unfinished Business of Sentimentality in American Culture and The Queen of America Goes to Washington City: Essays on Sex and Citizenship, both also published by Duke University Press, as well as The Anatomy of National Fantasy: Hawthorne, Utopia, and Everyday Life. She the editor of the books Intimacy; Compassion: The Culture and Politics of an Emotion; and (with Lisa Duggan) Our Monica, Ourselves: The Clinton Affair and National Interest.

More About the Author

Discover books, learn about writers, read author blogs, and more.

Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
5 star
4 star
3 star
2 star
1 star
See all 4 customer reviews
Share your thoughts with other customers

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Max on November 24, 2011
Format: Paperback
I'm only four chapters in but am enjoying the book. It's accessible for non-academics who read it recreationally, and it's less scatter-brained than Zizek's works written for a wide audience. It quickly contextualizes other authors' views such that the uninitiated reader isn't lost. That said, it's not as fluffy as cultural studies written for the NYTimes bestseller list (and that's a good thing).
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
8 of 16 people found the following review helpful By S.S. Howe on January 11, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you can understand that you exist in your own mind, and are constucted piecemeal in the mind's of others, this book will have you understanding the nature of randomness as it flourishes within each of us.

Ms. Berlant is a fine author, and will fly under your radar with a guidance control that will leave you wondering if you have any defense against such an onslaught of unbiased logic.A wonderful read.

John Twomey
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
10 of 23 people found the following review helpful By YA on April 1, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
One of the best books I have ever read ... original subtle and witty !
It navigates between various traditions - and sometimes thats unsaid , for example there is the scent of Cavell all over the chapters, but that's disguised, or I think so.

For anyone interested in attachments, precarity, new understandings of capitalism, multiplicity and normativity, this is a must
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
33 of 90 people found the following review helpful By Emmett B. Keeler on February 20, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
This book does not have active footnotes! Seriously? It is a sustained academic engagement with a field of other thinkers. It has multiple substantive footnotes on every page. Very disappointing.
1 Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again

Customer Images

What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?