The Happiness-Industrial Complex

Alongside the industrial and the digital revolutions, the modern era has witnessed a happiness revolution. The scientific study, laboratory refinement, and industrial production of happiness are all big business. If we count among its products the dopamine rush with which we are awarded for our small efforts online, the happiness industry is now the largest in the world. But just as mass-produced plastic items lack any lingering aura of the artisanship packed into the traditional crafts these items supplant, so too the isolated, distilled, and monetized product that has been studied and developed and sold back to us as happiness shows little continuity with traditional articulations of what happiness is. I should perhaps confess at this early moment that I am not, myself, happy. With the right dosage and combination of SSRIs and anxiolytics, and a whole battery of specialists to keep me propped up, I find I can get by in this world well enough for now, and am even able to come across to those who know me as a high-functioning go-getter and an all-around genial fellow. But the cost of this is enormous, and the resulting condition remains both artificial and tenuous — like a golf course in a desert. I bring up my own happiness deficit at the outset only because I hope it can help to reveal something almost paradoxical about the topic at hand. Ordinarily we imagine that not knowing something directly is a good reason not to write about it, especially in this age of “standpoint epistemology” and general disapproval of any effort to move out of one’s “lane.” You probably do not want to hear from me about what it is like to be a woman, or a victim of the historical legacy of settler colonialism (though if you do I’ll probably

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