Politics, Paradoxes and Pragmatics of Happiness
European leaders and the popular media have shown a new-found interest in happiness as a socio-political value and goal. A growing body of research attempts to identify the conditions under which humans experience the highest levels of happiness, life-satisfaction or subjective well-being. This essay examines what makes a contemporary science and politics of happiness possible by taking a critical look at such efforts to define, measure and promote happiness, while seeking out a range of diverging, often paradoxical, cultural discourses of happiness. The essay covers the following themes: Happiness is attainable; happiness is lost; happiness is obligatory; happiness is impossible; and, happiness is inauthentic. The essay critically examines political uses of the word happiness, disrupting received opinions about this contested term.