Reading Clive Hamilton’s book “Growth Fetish”. The thesis of the book is that the policies of unfettered capitalism pursued by the west for the last 50 years has largely failed, since the underlying purpose of the creation of wealth is happiness, and Hamilton contends that people in general are no happier now than 50 years ago, despite the huge increase in personal wealth. In fact, he suggests that the reverse is true. He states that the pursuit of growth has become a fetish, in that it is seen as a universal magic cure for all of society’s ills. His view on consumerism can be sumed up into:
“People buy things they don’t want, with money they don’t have, to impress people they don’t like”
So what is this magical word or state of mind called Happines? What Freud said about and what is his contribution to establish “Happiness machines” (see excelent BBC video below: The Century of Self: Happiness machines)
“Where wisdom (to phronein) is, there happiness (eudaimonías) will crown.” (Antigona).
“For Lacan, Aristotelian “happiness” and the modern “bourgeois dream” share a common failing. Both deny the tragic dimension of existence—and the tragic heroism required to live boldly and authentically or, like Antigone, with “splendor.” In Seminar VII: The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, Lacan connects “happiness” as such with the hap encounter that is tuché: “Certainly Freud leaves no doubt, any more than Aristotle, that what man is seeking, his goal, is happiness. It’s odd that in almost all languages happiness offers itself in terms of a meeting–tuché. Except in English and even there it’s very close. . . . ‘Happiness’ is after all ‘happen’; it is an encounter. . . . “
The individual pursuit of so-called happiness has been an enormous pre-occupation of modern times and for many, the lack of it is their source of suffering. Freud understood that happiness was a problem for the human subject. The pleasure principle runs against our need to live within culture and all its regulations. For Freud, happiness, in the strictest sense of he word, was only experienced in short-lived brief moments of satisfaction when needs were satisfied. It was therefore only ever episodic. In fact Freud knew that prolonged satisfaction of the pleasure principle only produce mild contentment and therefore the human subject only ever experienced happiness from the emergence of a contrast. Happiness was not to be regarded as an overall state, mood or situation. Once we become used to it, it seems to disappear.
According to Freud, happiness is the exception to the rule, the rule being that unhappiness and suffering comes at us, uncontrollably, from several sources, from the body, and the external world. …”So the project of becoming happy, strictly speaking, is an impossible one, but rather than advocating that the endeavour be abandoned, Freud understood the importance, indeed the inevitable need of the human subject to keep insisting in the struggle and to maintain our striving towards happiness. There is no one pathway to happiness, each must find their own way and decide whether the aim is gaining pleasure or avoiding unpleasure. Happiness as far as it can be recognised as possible is therefore “a problem of the economics of the ndividual libido”. …
Happiness might therefore be considered as a by-product and not a realistic aim in and of itself, as Freud has already explained. We are restricted to small doses of happiness and destined to wait, in anticipation, for the next brief instalment.”
So lets see how well was used Freud idea (by his nephew Edward Louis Bernays) to put people in extatic state of constant pursuit of happiness.
Opening paragraph of the American Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Psychological research of happiness: Genes ‘play key happiness role’
Our level of happiness throughout life is strongly influenced by the genes with which we were born, say experts. An Edinburgh University study of identical and non-identical twins suggests genes may control half the personality traits keeping us happy.