The happiness industry

Günther Förg

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:

  1. happiness is not some sunlit upland that can be reached once and for all (not some destination>journey), and
  2. 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”.

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