Happiness: Notes on History, Culture and Governance

C. Kingfisher


In this paper, I explore the emergence of happiness and well-being as keystones of contemporary EuroAmerican culture. Drawing on the relationship between disciplinary enterprises and forms of governance, as well as on cross-cultural comparison with fa’asamoa (the Samoan Way), I work to situate the current EuroAmerican obsession with happiness and well-being as a cultural formation – that is, as an artifact of a historically and culturally unique set of patterns and forces – thus problematizing its taken-for-granted status, in academic and policy-making circles, as a self-evident and universal goal with universal characteristics. I pay particular attention to the forms of governance that the contemporary orientation to happiness inaugurates and instantiates.


happiness; neoliberalism; cultural & historical specificity

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/hcs.2013.145


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