John Gray

Politics of Pleasure

The Happiness Industry: How the Government and Big Business Sold Us Well-Being

By

Verso 320pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

‘Happiness is the ultimate goal because it is self-evidently good. If we are asked why happiness matters we can give no further external reason. It just obviously does matter.’ Richard Layard, an economist and advocate of ‘positive psychology’, made this pronouncement in his book Happiness: Lessons from a New Science (2005). It epitomises an influential current of contemporary thinking. For Layard and others like him, it is obvious that the purpose of government is to promote a state of collective wellbeing. What this condition consists of is taken to be unproblematic; a feeling of pleasure or satisfaction in life is plainly what all human beings want. The only question is how to achieve it, and here positive psychology – a putative science that not only identifies what makes people happy but also allows their happiness to be measured – can show the way. Equipped with this science, governments can secure happiness in society in a way they never could in the past.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Lecture on war and peace in 19th-century Europe by Professor Sir Richard Evans, Thurs 25 Oct, 6.30pm Europe House… ,
    • 'Why, throughout the world, are so many people fascinated by the fiction and reality of espionage? And why of all p… ,
    • . here on books, Muriel Spark and life's tangled dance ,
    • RT : There aren't enough aggressive subtitles these days: ,
    • Churchill's on the cover of the October edition of the magazine. Piers Brendon reviews two new books about the Brit… ,
    • 'Readers have no more power to predict where the next story is going to take them than the prisoners had to determi… ,
    • 'Ho was no Soviet or Chinese puppet. He was a nationalist first and foremost. Had the Americans just realised this.… ,