This book tests the critical potential of happiness research to evaluate contemporary high-performance societies. These societies, defined as affluent capitalist societies, emphasize competition and success both institutionally and culturally. Growing affluence improves life in many ways, for a large number of people. We lead longer, safer, and more comfortable lives than previous generations. But we also live faster, and are competition-toughened, like top athletes. As a result, we suspect limits and detect downsides of our high-speed lives. The ubiquitous maximization principle opens up a systematic gateway to the pleasures and pains of contemporary life. Using happiness as a reference point, this book explores the philosophical and empirical limits of the maximization rule. It considers the answer to questions such as: Precisely, why did the idea of (ecomic) maximization gain so much ground in our Western way of thinking? When, and in which life domains, does maximization work, when does it fail? When do qualities and when do quantities matter? Does maximization yield a different (un)happiness dividend in different species, cultures, and societies?
Hilke Brockmann is a Professor of Sociology at Jacobs University, Bremen and an experienced expert in population aging and well-being research. Her work deals with the individual and health related consequences of large-scale demographic, political and social changes. She has published in major international journals, is a member of the Editorial Board of Health Sociology Review, of several professional associations and an alumni of the Max Planck Society. She also counsels public health insurances, marketing boards, firms, and political parties. Jan Delhey, Professor of Sociology at Jacobs University, Bremen, is an internationally renowned expert in comparative quality of life research. He has published on living conditions, subjective well-being, trust, and social cohesion in leading European and international journals (his next piece of work on trust will appear in the American Sociological Review). He is a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Happiness Studies and member of the board of directors of the International Society for Quality-of-Life Studies. For the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions he has worked as an expert advisor for European-wide social reporting. Contributor to the World Book of Happiness; numerous radio and newspaper interviews.