The Happiness Industry Book Summary - The Happiness Industry Book explained in key points
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The Happiness Industry summary

William Davies

How the Government and Big Business Sold Us Well-Being

4 (22 ratings)
14 mins

Brief summary

"The Happiness Industry" by William Davies is a critical analysis of how the science of happiness has been commodified and sold to individuals and organizations, shaping the way we understand and pursue happiness in modern society.

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    The Happiness Industry
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    Utilitarian philosophers believe that happiness is real and objective.

    Are you happy right now? How can you tell? Perhaps you can’t stop breaking into a grin. Or maybe it’s just that feeling that everything will turn out alright. Though everyone might answer that question differently, it’s clear that happiness is something that can be measured.

    Developments in neuroscience have allowed us to understand pleasure as a physiological event, comprised of observable chemical processes. Put simply, the human brain operates with a special “code” of emotion, including happiness. This code is computed in the orbitofrontal cortex.

    Neuroscience isn’t the only field convinced that happiness is measurable. Some schools of philosophy work from that premise too. Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832), founder of modern utilitarianism, suggested that the intensity of happiness can be objectively observed using two metrics: human pulse rate and money.

    Findings suggest that people’s pulse rates increase during moments of happiness – a straightforward way to measure the intensity of their feelings. Money can also help us gage positive emotions. If we count happiness as utility or usefulness, then when you buy a product the amount of money you spent on it becomes a measure of your happiness with the product or its usefulness to you.

    Politicians also have a vested interest in happiness. One of their responsibilities is, after all, to maximize the happiness of society. Governments strive to achieve this goal by punishing and rewarding.

    Punishing refers to making an individual suffer for committing a crime or bad behavior. A criminal, for instance, must serve a certain sentence in prison. Conversely, in the free market people can be rewarded with money in the form of income for being hardworking and talented. In this way, a government is theoretically able to direct human behavior toward maximizing happiness.

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    What is The Happiness Industry about?

    What makes you smile, laugh or feel like skipping down the street? Teams of professional psychologists, neuroscientists, marketers, economists and your boss all want to know. Why? So they can make sure you are a productive employee who buys lots of stuff! The Happiness Industry (2015) takes an in-depth look at how our happiness is studied, measured, and profited from – often without our knowledge or consent.

    The Happiness Industry Review

    The Happiness Industry (2015) by William Davies is a thought-provoking examination of how the pursuit of happiness has been commodified in modern society. Here's why this book is definitely worth reading:

    • Offers a critical analysis of the happiness industry, exploring how it shapes our lives and influences our desires.
    • Provides insightful perspectives on the connection between capitalism, technology, and our understanding of happiness.
    • Raises important questions about the impact of constant surveillance and self-tracking on our well-being.

    With its thought-provoking content, The Happiness Industry keeps readers engaged throughout, making it a good book for anyone interested in exploring the complexities of happiness in the modern world.

    Best quote from The Happiness Industry

    Happiness has become a new religion.

    —William Davies
    example alt text

    Who should read The Happiness Industry?

    • Anyone interested in the role of happiness in modern society
    • Readers who wonder how happiness works in the human brain
    • People concerned about increasing invasions of privacy online

    About the Author

    William Davies is a senior lecturer and director at the Political Economy Research Centre at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is also the author of The Limits of Neoliberalism. His writing has appeared in New Left Review, Prospect, the Financial Times and Open Democracy. His website was featured in the New York Times.

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    The Happiness Industry FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Happiness Industry?

    The main message of The Happiness Industry is an exploration of how happiness has become a commodity in our modern society.

    How long does it take to read The Happiness Industry?

    The reading time for The Happiness Industry will vary depending on the reader, but it typically takes a few hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in about 15 minutes.

    Is The Happiness Industry a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Happiness Industry is worth reading as it provides a thought-provoking analysis of the influence of the happiness industry on our lives.

    Who is the author of The Happiness Industry?

    The author of The Happiness Industry is William Davies.

    What to read after The Happiness Industry?

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