A happiness primer

In: Uncategorized

23 Jul 2006

The advocates of happiness put the argument against affluence in an apparently positive form. Why be obsessed with material advancement, they argue. Instead humans should be content with their well-being. It certainly sounds like a humanistic approach.

I do not intend to put the arguments against this viewpoint here. Instead I will provide links which are a starting point for a critique of the “pro-happiness” viewpoint. Links to my own articles – a review of Avner Offer’s Challenge of Affluence and a review of the BBC’s Happiness Formula documentary – are on the bar on the left hand side of this site.

It is important to remember that the literature on happiness is massive and growing fast. Yesterday the Financial Times magazine included a review essay on several new books on the subject. New York magazine has also recently published a substantial article on happiness.

A useful starting point is the website for the BBC’s Happiness Formula documentary website. It includes happiness tips, a happiness test, video clips and a bibliography.

Will Wilkinson, a policy analyst at the conservative Cato Institute, runs a happiness site which is critical of the discussion . It also includes a bibliography.

The World Database of Happiness provides plentiful statistical information on the topic.

Spiked has also run several critical articles on the subject besides my own including:

Frank Furedi We need teachers, not amateur therapists (11 July 2006). Puts the case against schools teaching children to be happy.

Frank Furedi Why the ‘politics of happiness’ makes me mad (23 May 2006). Argues against state-sponsored happiness programmes.

Lee Rowland Measuring happiness: a fool’s errand (31 May 2006). Examines the difficulties of devising measures of happiness.

Michael Savage If you’re happy and you know it… (29 November 2005). Argues the universality of the idea of happiness appeals to its contemporary advocates. It is almost impossible to be “against” happiness. But it would be a mistake to give up the difficult challenges in life.

Benjamin Hunt Economic misery (22 May 2003). Argues it is wrong to blame economic prosperity for feelings of social discontent. And restraint in relation to economic growth would not be a positive development.