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Sleeping man, happy capitalism!

The product you ordered online has just been delivered to you. You waited days for him to come. You open the freight package and the product you have been looking at with excitement is right in front of you. Sometimes it’s a watch, sometimes it’s a dress… In fact, if the product changes, the end doesn’t change much. We love the excitement of the process from when we order until we receive it more than owning this product. This also applies to what we buy at the store.

We watch, like, buy, and then immediately focus on another target. What is expected and desired of all of us is a state of extinction-exhaustion. We were made to believe and programmed that we would be so happy. Because we are meant to be.

The things that make us happy can change over time. Maybe it’s being changed. Universities focus on scientific studies on the concept of happiness.

One of the books written on this subject belongs to William Davies, who focuses on the relationship between economics and neurology. The happiness industry is one of the outliers in this field. It contains harsh criticisms of how the pursuit of pleasure and happiness, thought to be inherent in people, is tempted to be controlled and directed by big business, markets and governments.


At the beginning of the book, Davies takes the reader to the World Economic Forum in Davos 2014. According to him, this forum is quite different from the past.

Because that year, a happiness session was organized for the elite participants under the leadership of the Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard. Priest Richard, who tells his distinguished guests, “You are not a slave to your thoughts,” is also the happiest person in the world, according to a neuroscience study from the University of Wisconsin.

Well, how long has this elite group that runs the global economy been interested in happiness?

In his book, Davies examines all of this and details people’s perceptions of happiness from past to present and how brutal capitalism discovered this concept and began to use it for its own interests.

In the book, dozens of historical figures, from Aristotle to Jeremy Bentham, from Marx to Wundt, the founder of psychology, cross the scenes of happiness.

Davies assesses how all of these names approach the concept of happiness by looking at them from the perspective of psychology and economics; He recounts in disturbing nudity how the concept of happiness has become over time one of the main pillars of capitalism.

According to the author, measurable happiness, which has its origins in the work of British legal theorist Jeremy Bentham, is now considered a visible and developable entity.

Focused on stress, suffering and disease, today’s capitalism seeks to replace them with happiness and well-being. The technologies developed for this purpose have begun to penetrate our daily lives and even our bodies.

The technology, which tries to get to know us better every day by recording the number of steps we take, the places we visit, the calories we eat and even our sexual health, tries to measure our level of happiness from the movements of our eyes and faces.

While we think we can easily unlock our phone with the scan of the retina and the face, the data obtained by this technology are flowing into the digital bank of global bosses who want to get to know us with our habits and our needs as well as our emotions.

In his book, Davies attributes this whole process to the creation of the positive psychology movement, which centers happiness, and draws attention to the effort of this movement to ignore the environmental conditions that created the problem, while showing people as the main culprits. for their troubles. According to him, there are always economic and political interests behind mood tracking technologies, emotion analysis algorithms and meditation techniques to prevent stress.

According to Davies, who said his purpose in writing the book was to critique the intertwining of hope and joy with measurement, monitoring and management infrastructures, there are two reasons why the science of happiness is so important today:

First, the acceleration of the pace of work, companies working 24/7 and the high stress caused by digital devices that never turn off, and the decline in work engagement thereafter.

The second concerns studies that take place in technology, important studies of the human brain with FMRI and similar technologies.

According to these studies, experts who examine our brain recently said, “Buy! Drawing attention to the self-confidence he can discover on the button, the author especially insists on the fact that measurements and analyzes constitute a breach in our personal firewalls, from smart phones, smart watches , and even the smart cup named Vessyl, which keeps track of how much liquid we drink daily.

The data obtained from all these online environments, including social media, opens the door to strategies for designing and selling products that will be categorized according to consumer tastes and needs and ultimately make them happy.

According to Davies, a whole army of consumer psychologists, consumer neuroscientists and market researchers using this data are trying to convince us that we are happy when we spend money.

As the author points out, because changing environmental conditions is more difficult than changing subjective feelings, positive psychology says, “If you can’t change the environment, change your feelings.”


According to Davies, who has also discussed the politics of happiness studies, the purpose of all such studies is to steer individual activities towards the targets determined by elite forces.

However, neither democratic negotiation nor open coercion are used to do this. The whole effort is to liken our mind to a mechanical structure and understand where and when happiness arises from mind reading techniques, eye movements and facial movements.

At a time when social media, search engines, and even all tech companies have various security holes, personal data can easily be traded, and attempts are made to create digital dictatorships, Davies’ book deceives happiness at a time when the door is closed. , but stay online and reveal almost all of our personalities. An important warning about how we are used.

A violent blow to wake us from our hedonistic slumber.

Happiness Industry / William Davies / Translated by Müge Çavdar / Sel Publishing / 294 p.

Source: Cumhuriyet

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