Rowlands links


The RSA has been carefully following the upsurge in political interest in happiness. David Willets and Paul Ormerod debated Happiness, Economics and Public Policy last year. Richard Layard is a regular visitor.

Psychologists looking at happiness consistently pin the blame on consumer culture. Too much choice is bad for us, according to Psychology Today. For Tim Kasser (who also spoke here recently), materialism is the problem. It’s not clear that this metric explains national and regional differences in happiness levels, though. Or sudden shifts in national mood.

It remains an open question whether we can legislate for happiness. Eric G. Wilson’s Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy is a tidy polemic, although the Economist review wasn’t too favourable. Maybe the philosopher Peter Singer has it right: we can’t outlaw unhappiness, but we can prevent depression.

None of this is new, of course. Of contemporary thinkers, only Daniel Gilbert has really taken on board J. S. Mill’s autobiographical paradox: "Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so." Darrin McMahon’s Happiness: A History is a useful corrective to the present-mindedness of this debate.

Be the first to write a comment


Please login to post a comment or reply

Don't have an account? Click here to register.

Related articles

  • Four-day week: the social benefits

    Lianna Etkind

    Lianna Etkind, RSA Central Fellowship Areas and Engagement Manager, explores the social benefits of the four-day week and calls for more participation to create the future of work.

  • Good Work Guild: inspiring the future of work

    Adanna Shallowe

    Learn about the twelve-month journey of The Good Work Guild and the recommendations its global network of Fellows and work practitioners have made.

  • The importance of public entrepreneurship

    Ian Burbidge

    Our healthcare system needs transformational change that creates the space for a new paradigm to emerge. Read about how our public entrepreneurship project can support this.