The Happiness Industry

How the Government and big business sold us well-being

William Davis

Non fiction
William Davis


Essentially a very articulate case for being a pessimist, or for realist pessimism as progressive thought that we might wield in order to improve our living conditions in some real way. Davies argues that in the past decade, governments and corporations have become increasingly interested in measuring the way people feel: ‘the Happiness index’, ‘Gross National Happiness’, ‘well-being’ and positive psychology have come to dominate the way we live our lives. As a result, our emotions have become a new resource to be bought and sold. Davis’ central focus is on how the drive to protect and artificially enhance so called ‘well-being’ influences all aspects of our lives: business, finance, marketing and smart technology. Essentially it is about the commercialization of emotion – and the spiralling industry of these states as tradable, purchasable goods. The outcome of this spans unrealistic expectations, alienation from the self and others, and ultimately total disempowerment – the merging of west coast Californian hippie culture with the early Steve Jobs technological industry meant that new age philosophy met neo liberal propaganda – a particularly deadly combination predicated on the notion that if you can just manage to alter your perception of reality, you can ‘manifest’ all the money in the world. By disproportionately overloading the individual with a sense of agency they do not, in fact, possess, they are robbed of any power they may be able to yield in response to the very real, lived difficulties, oppressions, and tyrannies they may or may not be living under.