The Happiness Imperative

26.11.19 / Video
Eva Illouz on “happycracy” and its key role in neoliberal capitalism
Lecture, 20.9.19, Orpheum Extra

The main thing is to stay positive, because that is the only way of attaining true happiness. Eva Illouz’s keynote on the opening weekend of steirischer herbst ’19 illuminates this “happiness imperative” and its fundamental hypocrisy. Taking as her point of departure the recent book Manufacturing Happy Citizens, which she wrote with the psychologist Edgar Cabanas, she shows how the obsessive, compulsive, and often futile search for personal wellbeing now organizes all social life as a new, guiding form of morality. What began with the American self-help industry of the 1980s has now taken on global proportions. Media and social networks watch over and control us while inducing us to search for our own happiness and realize our goals regardless of the consequences. Meanwhile, the inequalities that prevent us from being happy are hidden, so that failure becomes a matter of personal responsibility. In her lecture, Illouz describes the origins and consequences of this “happycracy” and its key role in neoliberal capitalism.

Eva Illouz (1961, Fes) is a professor of sociology at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and author of several books. Her research focuses on the link between capitalism and emotions, questioning whether consumer society changes our perception of love. Illouz lives in Jerusalem.