Perceptions of the Nature of Happiness: Cultural, but Related to the Dynamics of the Human Mind and the Gratification of General Needs: Review of Laura Hyman: Happiness; Understanding Narratives and Discourses, Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, ISBN: 978-1-137-32152-7
(2016) Journal of Happiness Studies, pp. 1-7. Article in Press.
In her book ‘Happiness’ Laura Hyman identifies some discourses, as defined by Foucault, about happiness among 19 middle-class respondents in the UK. A discourse is a way of thinking and communicating about some issue, and comparable to a ‘perception’ or a’ view’. The dominant ‘Therapeutic Discourse’, is based on the view that happiness is an individual and normative challenge; it is to be worked on by selfcare and self-knowledge. A somewhat contradictory discourse puts more priority on social relations, as a condition for happiness. Hyman explains the co-existence of these discourses as a consequence of individualization. Individualization puts more priority on individual responsibility, but can easily lead to a neglect of social relations. It is difficult to assess the universality of these discourses, because the sample of respondents is very homogeneous. If individualization is an important factor we might expect different discourses in more collectivistic cultures. There are, however, theoretical reasons to believe that these discourses are rather universal. We may expect that the gratification of general needs is important. If certain needs are not gratified they will get more attention, and more priority, in a discourse about happiness. The ‘Therapeutic Discourse’, more in particular, is apparently a logical consequence of the dynamics of the human mind. The characteristics of the human consciousness clearly support this discourse. We need more empirical research, about discourses in different cultures, to find out for sure! © 2016 The Author(s)
Capitalism; Discourse; Enlightenment; Gratification of needs; Happiness; Hedonic level of affect; Human needs; Individualization; Life-satisfaction
clinical article, consciousness, empirical research, happiness, human, human tissue, individualization, narrative, neglect, perception, responsibility, social interaction, theoretical model