Synopses & Reviews
Despite the fact that citizens of advanced market democracies are satisfied with their material progress, many are haunted by a spirit of unhappiness. There is evidence of a rising tide of clinical depression in most advanced societies, and in the United States studies have documented a decline in the number of people who regard themselves as happy. Although our political and economic systems are based on the utilitarian philosophy of happiness the greatest good for the greatest number they seem to have contributed to our dissatisfaction with life. This book investigates why this is so.
Drawing on extensive research in such fields as quality of life, economics, politics, sociology, psychology, and biology, Robert E. Lane presents a challenging thesis. He shows that the main sources of well-being in advanced economies are friendships and a good family life and that, once one is beyond the poverty level, a larger income contributes almost nothing to happiness. In fact, as prosperity increases, there is a tragic erosion of family solidarity and community integration, and individuals become more and more distrustful of each other and their political institutions. Lane urges that we alter our priorities so that we increase our levels of companionship even at the risk of reducing our income.
"The day is near when people will discover the Sisyphusian nature of the pursuit of material goods as a source of lasting contentment and meaning. Professor Lane's well written and documented book will be the text of the new recognition that all who are out of poverty must formulate other goals in life than the amassment of objects during the day and their consumption at night." Amitai Etzioni, author of The New Golden Rule
"For half a century Robert Lane has been one of the nation's most thoughtful and creative political scientists. His latest work poses big questions why are so many of us unhappy and depressed these days? How are happiness, democracy, and the market related? What is the ultimate good for society? His answers are worth pondering." Robert D. Putnam, Harvard University
"An important integration of political science, sociology, economics, and psychology." Future Survey
"A book of great importance for our time. Lane asks whether our most treasured institutions market economies and democratic political systems are good for subjective well-being. He approaches this question with a breadth of knowledge and scholarship that is difficult to match." David O. Sears, University of California, Los Angeles
"Those who ponder the rationale of societal development should take the opportunity to read this remarkable treatise and learn from it." Peter Laslett, Population and Development Review
Why in prosperous market democracies do so many people find themselves unhappy? Robert Lane shows that the main sources of well-being in advanced economies are friendship and a good family life; income has little to do with happiness once a person rises above the poverty level.
About the Author
Robert E. Lane is Eugene Meyer Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Yale University. He is the author of many books, including, most recently, The Market Experience.