ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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In Pursuit of Happiness

The efforts to officially prepare indexed happiness are nothing but an ideological production.


Our society is plagued with the idea that “we should be happy.” But why should we be happy is never asked. In other words, this refers to the distinction between the objective of happiness as a fact of individual life, as opposed to a normative conception of happiness. From Aristotle’s “eudaimonia” (well-being) and Jeremy Bentham’s “hedonism” (maximum pleasure), society has oscillated between these prescribed notions of happiness and an instrumental version where the state becomes the instrument to achieve it, whether through welfare schemes, good governance, health, or freedom to make choices, etc. This instrumental version intends to reduce happiness to achievable goals and targets, and all this is done to produce happy citizens and happy countries! The “blind” tradition lives on, and we need to be thankful to the World Happiness Index (WHI) that further propagates this neo-liberal idea of happiness. The World Happiness Report 2022 has ranked Finland as the happiest country, followed by Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. The report is published by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network using the data provided by the World Health Organization (WHO), World Bank, and Gallup World Poll surveys. The report surveys more than 150 countries providing respondents with the Cantril ladder to record their responses—where happiness is rated on a scale between 0 and 10. The indicators used to build this report are the per capita gross domestic product (GDP), social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity, perceptions of corruption, and comparison to dystopia.

In a list of 150 countries, India ranks 136. Does the idea of “happiness” produced in these reports tell us something different, or does it allow us to further engage with this matter? Though some of these parameters have been built across time through common notions, for instance, that “corruption is bad” and the right to freedom of choice; however, one needs to critically see the underlying assumptions upon which the report builds—happiness as an absolute good and that the most important goal of the country should be to produce happy subjects. The first question that obviously needs asking: Why happiness? Possibly, the answer lies in the positivity of this notion and all the great things it has to offer. Several scholars have argued that this could be an extension of the idea of the “self-made individual,” which is, however, now couched in a measurable language that has both universal and, therefore, apparently neutral legitimacy. Happiness takes up the old cudgel of the individual rising from adversity into a commonly held idea of “perfection.”

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Updated On : 9th Apr, 2022
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