During the past forty years, thousands of studies have been carried out on the subject of happiness. Some have explored the levels of happiness or dissatisfaction associated with typical daily activities, such as working, seeing friends, or doing household chores. Others have tried to determine the extent to which income, family, religion, and other factors are associated with the satisfaction people feel about their lives. The Gallup organization has begun conducting global surveys of happiness, and several countries are considering publishing periodic reports on the growth or decline of happiness among their people. One nation, tiny Bhutan, has actually made "Gross National Happiness" the central aim of its domestic policy. How might happiness research affect government policy in the United States--and beyond? In The Politics of Happiness, former Harvard president Derek Bok examines how governments could use the rapidly growing research data on what makes people happy--in a variety of policy areas to increase well-being and improve the quality of life for all their citizens.
Bok first describes the principal findings of happiness researchers. He considers how reliable the results appear to be and whether they deserve to be taken into account in devising government policies. Recognizing both the strengths and weaknesses of happiness research, Bok looks at the policy implications for economic growth, equality, retirement, unemployment, health care, mental health, family programs, education, and government quality, among other subjects. Timely and incisive, The Politics of Happiness sheds new light on what makes people happy and how government policy could foster greater satisfaction for all.
Derek Bok is the 300th Anniversary Research Professor at Harvard University. From 1971 to 1991, he served as Harvard’s twenty-fifth president, and he served again as interim president from 2006 to 2007. He is the author of The State of the Nation and The Trouble with Government, and coauthor of The Shape of the River (Princeton).
"Compelling."--David Brooks, New York Times
"With his clear analysis and outside-the-box ideas, Bok encourages thoughtful consideration of what we should want for ourselves and expect from our government."--Sarah Halzack, Washington Post
"Careful and cogent. . . . Bok believes . . . that the American government, which is in no danger of tranquilizing its citizens, can and should design policies to enhance their happiness."--Glenn C. Altschuler, Boston Globe
"Delving into the burgeoning field of happiness research, former president of Harvard University Bok (The State of the Nation) sifts through scientific studies on how societal well-being indications can and should be used to shape social and political policy. . . . Bok's arguments on how good government, access to education, and adequate child care make for a pleasanter society are incontrovertible, and he initiates an important, jargon-free discussion of American public policy, especially when its aims contradict or diminish the public weal."--Publisher's Weekly
"Bok addresses how happiness research could inform US policy. The first three chapters unpack the claims of happiness psychologists, evaluate reliability and discuss policy application. The remainder address happiness in relation to economic growth, inequality, financial hardship (retirement, healthcare and job loss), suffering (chronic pain, sleep disorder and depression), marriages and families, education and the quality of government. The debate on happiness, Bok concludes, 'will be an accomplishment of enduring importance to humankind'."--Paul Stenner, Times Higher Education
Table of Contents:
CHAPTER 1: What Investigators Have Discovered 9
CHAPTER 2: The Reliability of Research on Happiness 32
CHAPTER 3: Should Policy-Makers Use Happiness Research? 45
CHAPTER 4: The Question of Growth 63
CHAPTER 5: What to Do about Inequality 79
CHAPTER 6: The Threat of Financial Hardship 99
CHAPTER 7: Relieving Suffering 124
CHAPTER 8: Marriages and Families 139
CHAPTER 9: Education 156
CHAPTER 10: The Quality of Government 179
CHAPTER 11: The Significance of Happiness Research 204
This book has been translated into:
- Chinese (Simplified)
Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by Derek Bok: