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William Davies: The Happiness Industry

Talking about happiness optimization without thinking about the individual's life situation is a gross misunderstanding of what a life is.

William Davies: The Happiness Industry. Verso books, 2015

How happy are you on a scale of one to ten? You have probably been asked this question several times. What you answered of course depends on how you felt that day – but the most interesting thing about the situation is not what you answered, but the logic you were in if you did: The question assumes that happiness is something that can measured, just like you measure how much you weigh, or how much rain has fallen during the night.

Quantified happiness. This measure of happiness is very problematic, says William Davies, author of The Happiness Industry – for we think so, happiness becomes more neutral than it actually is. It is worth pondering a bit on this, because quantifying thinking is not just something we use in private, but a method used by states and organizations to control the world and the people living in it. By measuring happiness, one can come up with seemingly objective claims about the quality of life of groups of people and thus better control these, Davies argues.

Svalbard. He's in for something. For example, we can imagine – and this is only a possible example – that 70 percent of the population in Svalbard answered "8" to the question of how happy they were on the 1 – 10 scale, while all other municipalities in Norway answered 5 on average. or less.
With a semblance of scientificity, we could thus say that the people of Svalbard are the happiest people in Norway. This has thus become a "fact" that can be used in everything from municipal politics to the tourism industry, and a tool that can manipulate the population. . .

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Kjetil Røed
Freelance writer.

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