The Happiness Industry: How the Government and Big Business Sold us Well-Being



“Deeply researched and pithily argued, Davies’s work is a welcome corrective to the glut of semi-scientific happiness books that have become so popular in business and management circles, and which rarely, if ever, acknowledge the larger ideological goals of workplace well-being.”

—New York Magazine

“Skillfully written intellectual entertainment—prime fodder for postmodern psychologists and New-Age thinkers alike.”

—Kirkus Reviews

“Davies, explaining the evolution of the science of happiness from the French Revolution to the present, argues it essentially serves the interests of the powerful elite. This challenging book will appeal to academics and students of various disciplines.”


“William Davies argues that our happiness fixation may have more to do with the interests of corporations and governments than personal fulfillment.”


“A brilliant, and sometimes eerie, dissection of our times.”


“Rich, lucid and arresting”

—John Gray, Literary Review

“An interesting contribution to the growing genre of happiness studies.”


“This is a brilliant and lucidly written indictment of the ideology of happiness and its accompanying horrors of mindfulness and well-being. Davies convincingly shows how the happiness industry is the new front line of capitalism, which has succeeded in exposing the inner recesses of the self to techniques of measurement, surveillance and control.”

—Simon Critchley, author of The Faith of the Faithless

“William Davies reveals the tricks that corporates use to try to keep us happy while treating us as losers. Informed, revealing, scary and hopeful, The Happiness Industry connects economics and management science to psychology and psychiatry to explain why so much feels (and is) so wrong.”

—Danny Dorling, author of Inequality and the 1%

“When did happiness itself become a liability? When the market figured out that making us content is the first stage in manufacturing our consent. In this accessible, fact-filled history of measured happiness, William Davies shows us how metrics of well-being were systematically disconnected from meaning and community, and in the process transformed from the very core of human power into an access panel to our desires and behavior. I can’t listen to that damned ‘Happy’ song anymore without thinking about whom my supposed happiness really serves, and what they’re willing to do to make sure I stay that way.”

—Douglas Rushkoff, author of Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now

“In a heady mixture of psychology, economics, sociology, and philosophy, this book reveals the misguided nature of the currently popular intellectual project to make people happier and improve society through ‘scientific’ understanding—and manipulation—of human beings. With many governments and corporations hell-bent on control promoting it aggressively, this project is increasingly depriving our societies of true social bonds, democratic participation, critical thinking, and even happiness itself. An eye-opening, head-spinning, and mind-expanding book.”

—Ha-Joon Chang, University of Cambridge, author of 23 Things They Don’t Tell You about Capitalism

About the Author

William Davies is the author of The Limits of Neoliberalism. His writing has appeared in New Left Review, Prospect, the Financial Times, and Open Democracy. His website was featured in the New York Times. He teaches at Goldsmiths, London.

Product Information

Packaging Size:5.8 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches

Shipping Weight:1.2 pounds