This book offers an original account of the good life in late modernity through a uniquely sociological lens. It considers the various ways that social and cultural factors can encourage or impede genuine efforts to live a good life by deconstructing the concepts of happiness and contentment within cultural narratives of the good life. While empirical studies have dominated the discourse on happiness in recent decades, the emphasis on finding causal and correlational relationships has led to a field of research that arguably lacks a reliable theoretical foundation. Deconstructing Happiness offers a step toward developing that foundation by offering characteristically sociological perspectives on the contemporary fascination with happiness and well-being. In doing so, it seeks to understand the good life as a socially mediated experience rather than a purely personal or individually defined way of living. The outcome is a book on happiness, contentment and the good life that considers the influence of democracy, capitalism and progress, while also focusing on the more theoretical challenges of self-knowledge, reason and interaction.
Introduction: Thinking Critically About Happiness 1. An Introduction to the Sociology of Happiness: Revisiting the Classics 2. Happiness, Sadness, and Contentment in the Sociology of Emotion 3. Reason, Self-Understanding and Autonomy in the Pursuit of Happiness 4. From Freud to Bauman: A Modern History of Discontentment 5. Democracy, Economics and the Public Sphere: If Money Won’t Buy Happiness, Who Should We Vote For? 6. Knowing Happiness and Contentment: The Good Life as a Hermeneutic Exercise. Conclusion.