The dangers of using Positive Psychology as a political tool…
(Action for Happiness is a UK movement committed to building a happier society based on Positive Psychology)
The following are some interesting critiques of the UK Government’s ‘Action for Happiness’ campaign. What are your thoughts?
The trouble with the economics of happiness, Aditya Chakrabortty
One of the best gauges of whether a statement actually means anything is to stick a not in its middle. If the opposite sounds ridiculous, then the chances are the original proposition is mush. Who would seriously argue that banks shouldn’t be well-regulated, that the starvation of African babies is perfectly OK, thanks, or that civil liberties aren’t worth a fig?
Run the mush test over the launch of the campaign group Action for Happiness. “I’m up for more happiness!” was one slogan – as if anyone but a Dickensian villain, hobbling around Victorian London and sending ragged-trousered tots scattering in fear before him, would ever admit otherwise….
Happiness is not about ticking boxes, John Crace
When you quantify happiness, you make it prescriptive. There is a right way and a wrong way of being happy. Which rather takes the joy out of it.
The idea of happiness as a process of self-realisation also grates. As if being unhappy somehow puts you further down the karmic food chain and that if you’re not happy it’s because you’re a less worthwhile person. Misery is not always optional and the last thing the miserable need is to be guilt-tripped by the emotionally cleansed.
In a time of spending cuts, I can see the attraction of focusing on the areas of one’s life over which one can exercise some control. But this pursuit of individual happiness is a distraction from the real causes of unhappiness.
I’d be willing to bet that the reason the Danes are so happy is because they have less poverty, less inequality and more social mobility, not because more of them are meditating. And poverty, inequality and social mobility can be quantified. Those who set their store by happiness indices, go out and get measuring.
The pursuit of happiness makes me queasy, Madeline Bunting
…Action for Happiness seems to suggest that it is simply a matter of providing the information and people will develop the right happy habits – getting to know the neighbours, saying thank you etc…The only thing I know about happiness is that long ago I was told that it arrives as a byproduct to other activities, it doesn’t work so well as a goal in itself.