The happiness industry
William Davies wrote a book called The Happiness Industry: how government and big business sold us well being. I have only read reviews, interviews, and discussion, but this is the story I take away:
If people can manage their happiness through yoga, breathing, CBT, CBD, SSRIs, organic vegetables, dairy substitutes, vitamin D supplements etc., then they are the ones to blame if they are not happy.
This sets up an industry that thrives on unhappiness without addressing twin truths:
- happiness is not some sunlit upland that can be reached once and for all (not some destination>journey), and
- many causes of unhappiness come from outside the individual.
The result being that the more we emphasise agency and the tools for personal happiness, the more we de-emphasise the role played by structures like the economy and society.
Or, in NY Times journalist David Marchese’s wording: “It’s like if someone was punching you in the face and their idea for how you might feel better about that situation is for you to learn to take a punch better, rather than they stop punching you in the face”.