Servants to happiness

'Manufacturing Happy Citizens: How the Science and Industry of Happiness Control our Lives' by Edgar Cabanas and Eva Illouz (Polity Press; £14.99); reviewed by Isabelle Colley.

Is happiness the most important goal we should all strive towards? So ask Edgar Cabanas and Eva Illouz in Manufacturing Happy Citizens, a book that covers the growing research into keeping society happy. 

Positive psychologists have built a global empire propagated through PhDs, workshops, courses and research in private and public institutions into applied positive psychology. But Manufacturing Happy Citizens describes the oversimplifications, replication issues, and generalisations associated with the positive psychology enterprise. 

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is used in the book to explain the thought processes and behaviours involved in striving for personal satisfaction, and ultimately happiness. Having struggled throughout my own life to maintain a steady flow of happiness, this book captures familiar everyday struggles.

Manufacturing Happy Citizens shows how government and businesses are behind many of our desires, dictating how we should be happy, encouraging us to invest in our own happiness through commodities for self-management. The increased adoption of positive psychology techniques indicates an obsessive concern with our inner emotional lives at the expense of our autonomy. This book provides insight into how neoliberal society causes us to become servants to the pursuit of happiness.

Reviewed by Isabelle Colley
Undergraduate student at the University of Exeter

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