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Will Davies - The Happiness Industry

By Mad in America

When we discuss the issue of forced treatment, coercive mental health interventions like involuntary commitment, forced drugging, and electroconvulsive therapy usually come to mind. But force and coercion can be much more subtle. Many researchers and thought leaders have argued that our society mandates us to be happy and perform well-being at all times through cultural norms, media depictions, and workplace and school regulations. This week on MIA Radio we interview Will Davies, Reader in Political Economy at Goldsmiths University of London, and author of The Happiness Industry, a book that explores the rapidly growing culture of mandated happiness and well-being surveillance. In this interview, we discuss the increasing pressure people face to be happy and think positive, and how this pressure serves the interests of the corporate elite and the State. In this episode we discuss: What the “happiness industry” is and the history of its development How the notion that happiness can be quantified or measured, as well as advancements in neuroscience and medicalized frameworks of depression, have influenced our culture How employees are increasingly pressured to be happy or perform happiness within the workplace How people receiving welfare or government benefits are required to engage in positive thinking programs or cognitive behavioral therapy That holding individuals responsible for attaining their own happiness relieves responsibility from structural and institutional determinants of well-being The coercive and forceful aspects of the “happiness industry,” including surveillance in workplaces and mandatory self-help programs in schools The role that positive thinking and self-help culture play in upholding neoliberalism and capitalism Relevant Links: Dr. Will Davies The Happiness Industry: How the Government and Big Business Sold Us Well-Being The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling The Power Thinker: Why Foucault’s Work on Power is More Important than Ever The Weariness of the Self: Diagnosing the History of Depression in the Contemporary Age Dr. Davies’ next book, Nervous States: Democracy and the Decline of Reason will be published by Norton in early 2019. © Mad in America 2018

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