Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 11, Issue 5, pp 585–603 | Cite as

Happiness on the Political Agenda? PROS and CONS

Research Paper


This paper provides a critical analysis of the application of happiness research into policy domains. An overview of the current debate on the politics of happiness is elaborated by focusing on its promising perspectives as well as the potential problems it raises. Arguments of proponents and opponents are confronted with each other in discussing the following central issues in the debate: (1) the state of progress of the happiness research; (2) the value of happiness and its promotion by political means; (3) the possibility of promoting happiness; (4) paternalism versus autonomy and (5) a fair distribution of happiness. It is concluded from this that pragmatic issues do not pose insurmountable obstacles for the realization of a politics of happiness, although further research is definitely recommendable. The ideological or ethical issues however require further debate and research before the actual realization of a politics of happiness is possible. More specifically, the science of happiness needs to give more attention to analyzing the value of happiness and the desirability of increasing happiness by political means. Also the weighing of the value of happiness against other values and goals is an important issue to be put on the agenda. This paper thus explicates the moral choices and challenges that politicians would be confronted with if they want to put the increase of happiness on the political agenda.


Politics of happiness Promises and pitfalls The value of happiness 



I would like to thank Bengt Brülde, Johan Braeckman, Charlotte De Backer and Aäron Willem for reading earlier versions of this article and for their useful comments. And I would also like to thank the Fund for Scientific Research Flanders for funding this research.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy and Moral ScienceGhent UniversityGhentBelgium

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