Happy? New book reveals problems with the pursuit of happiness

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Should we be happy? That’s the question posed by Swansea University academic Dr Ashley Frawley in her forthcoming book that examines the problems with society’s pursuit of happiness.

Ashley FrawleyIn The Semiotics of Happiness (Bloomsbury)  Dr Frawley looks at how the interest in happiness has grown and been reflected in the media, popular and scholarly writing to such an extent that the concept of wellbeing is viewed as a serious problem requiring the intervention of a range of professional and political powers.

In the book, Dr Frawley of Swansea University’s College of Human and Health Sciences analyses UK newspapers reports about happiness and examines how  dedicated advocates claimed that a new 'science of happiness' had been discovered and began to campaign for the acceptance and increased influence of this new ‘science’. Dr Frawley traces the ascendance of happiness onto the public agenda and argues that it became influential not because of a growing unhappiness in society nor a demand for new knowledge about it, but rather because these influential and dedicated advocates took the issue on at a cultural moment when problems cast in emotional terms were particularly likely to make an impact.

The book examines how happiness was brought to the forefront of public consciousness and was constructed as a social problem needing political action, resulting in the issue being embedded into policies and practices of a number of institutions.

Semiotics of HappinessDr Frawley said: ‘My  analysis has revealed that the problem with happiness is that it promotes low expectations, and in spite of the radical language used to describe it, is ultimately conservative in outlook.’

Watch Dr Frawley’s lecture Should we be happy?