"Deeply researched and pithily argued, Davies's work is a welcome corrective to the glut of semi-scientific happiness books that have become so popular in business and management circles, and which rarely, if ever, acknowledge the larger ideological goals of workplace well-being." - New York Magazine "When the 18th-century philosopher Jeremy Bentham suggested that maximising happiness was the job of government, he inspired a quest to measure happiness that continues today. Until recently, the only effective tool for that-as the political scientist Will Davies explains in a forceful new book, The Happiness Industry-has been money." - Observer "As Davies implies in this readable, disturbing book, being depressed by the human condition will no longer be socially acceptable, or even an option. The state or big business will soon see to it!" - Independent "Rich, lucid and arresting" - John Gray, Literary Review "Brilliant ... explains how the rhetoric of competition has invaded almost every domain of our existence." - Evgeny Morozov, author of To Save Everything, Click Here (in praise of The Limits of Neoliberalism) "When did happiness itself become a liability? When the market figured out that making us content is the first stage in manufacturing our consent. In this accessible, fact-filled history of measured happiness, William Davies shows us how metrics of well-being were systematically disconnected from meaning and community, and in the process transformed from the very core of human power into an access panel to our desires and behavior. I can't listen to that damned 'Happy' song anymore without thinking about whom my supposed happiness really serves, and what they're willing to do to make sure I stay that way." - Douglas Rushkoff, author of Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now "A fascinating book." - Philip Mirowski, author of Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste (in praise of The Limits of Neoliberalism) "In a heady mixture of psychology, economics, sociology, and philosophy, this book reveals the misguided nature of the currently popular intellectual project to make people happier and improve society through 'scientific' understanding - and manipulation - of human beings. With many governments and corporations hell-bent on control promoting it aggressively, this project is increasingly depriving our societies of true social bonds, democratic participation, critical thinking, and even happiness itself. An eye-opening, head-spinning, and mind-expanding book." - Ha-Joon Chang, University of Cambridge, author of 23 Things They Don't Tell You about Capitalism "A brilliant, and sometimes eerie, dissection of our times." - Vice "William Davies argues that our happiness fixation may have more to do with the interests of corporations and governments than personal fulfilment." - Fortune "An interesting contribution to the growing genre of happiness studies" - THE "Davies, explaining the evolution of the science of happiness from the French Revolution to the present, argues it essentially serves the interests of the powerful elite. This challenging book will appeal to academics and students of various disciplines." - Booklist "Skillfully written intellectual entertainment-prime fodder for postmodern psychologists and New-Age thinkers alike." - Kirkus Reviews "Davies's concern is to show that by making us more resilient and more productive, the happiness industry tricks us into settling for too little." - Katrina Forrester, London Review of Books "How "managing our happiness" is becoming an increasingly lucrative and insidious industry." New Humanist "The Happiness Industry is a thought-provoking and daring intervention into the crowded field of neoliberal political economy [...] Its bold theses and elegant historical foundation provides political economists with much new material to consider." - Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics. William Davies is the author of The Limits of Neoliberalism. His writing has appeared in New Left Review, Prospect, the Financial Times, and Open Democracy. His website www.potlatch.co.uk was featured in the New York Times. He teaches at Goldsmiths, London.. In winter 2014, a Tibetan monk lectured the world leaders gathered at Davos on the importance of Happiness. The recent DSM-5, the manual of all diagnosable mental illnesses, for the first time included shyness and grief as treatable diseases. Happiness has become the biggest idea of our age, a new religion dedicated to well-being. In this brilliant dissection of our times, political economist William Davies shows how this philosophy, first pronounced by Jeremy Bentham in the 1780s, has dominated the political debates that have delivered neoliberalism. From a history of business strategies of how to get the best out of employees, to the increased level of surveillance measuring every aspect of our lives; from why experts prefer to measure the chemical in the brain than ask you how you are feeling, to why Freakonomics tells us less about the way people behave than expected, The Happiness Industry is an essential guide to the marketization of modern life. Davies shows that the science of happiness is less a science than an extension of hypercapitalism.
Beyond the happiness principle Put simply this book seeks to establish that over the last 150 years or so the concept of happiness has been central to policy-makers and latterly, marketers, social media firms and others and that the consequences for us as individuals has been dire. Understanding what makes us happy has proved a means of manipulation and monetisation by the forces of government and business. The reason of course is that it is not our long term, lasting happiness that large organisations are actually concerned with at all, but rather how to engineer short-term mood changes which they can exploit. As the book states, “capitalism could now be viewed as an arena of psychological experiences in which physical things were mere props for the production of sensations to be acquired through cash”. Talking about the ‘happiness industry’ neatly concretises what the author is talking about, although Davies never really justifies its use as term. In fact he is pointing to a loose web of many very different ideas, institutions and forces at work. Some are wholly philosophical: he gives a surprising amount of space to rehearsing various philosophies. He credits nineteenth-century empiricist British philosopher Jeremy Bentham with starting the whole thing off with his quest to understand human behaviour, and thereby improve it, through a simple calculus of happiness. Davies credits Bentham with founding evidence-based policy (surely that is how policy should be made). He then lambasts the crudeness of his measure of happiness and his laughable attempt to reduce the inner workings of the complex human psyche to a single metric. Moving on through the work of various other strains of thought, notably, the behaviourist psychologist Skinner, we finally wind up with the use that Facebook and others are making of measuring and manipulating our moods. One of the great strengths of the Happiness Industry is that it is readable, clear and engaging. It looks at an important issue and does throw light on how the science of measuring our moods can pose a trap. But ultimately I am not sure that an entity called happiness industry exits in any meaningful way. Davies also segues rather too easily from “happiness” to “wellbeing”, the latter for me having connotations of dealing with stress and so on. And ultimately the book can feel utopian: okay, we all know the ‘system’ is deeply flawed but then all systems typically are. Still, the book is an engaging corrective to the glib, facile outlook of so much of the happiness crew.
and would have liked to have seen more analysis of current mental health ... A bit heavy on history, and would have liked to have seen more analysis of current mental health provision, but I highly recommend this book to anyone that is feeling somewhat cynical of the ‘wellbeing’ trend currently swamping organisations, particular the third sector. Criticisms previously attributed to the prescriptive CBT solution, are explored from a historical stance, and highlights the neoliberalism of social control.
Excellent book and should be read by those who care ... Excellent book and should be read by those who care about democracy, ethics and manipulation of citizens.
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