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Whereas happiness (eudaimonia or human flourishing) was fundamental to the classical thought of the Greeks and Romans, as felicitas and beatitudo were to Christianity and a ‘felicific calculus’ to utilitarian philosophers, since Max Weber’s criticism of happiness as a goal of social policy it has largely disappeared from mainstream sociology. The article contrasts Aristotle’s view of eudaimonia from the Nicomachean Ethics, in which a happy/flourishing polis was a necessary condition for happy/flourishing citizens, with contemporary societies in which, while there is much talk about happiness, it is often understood as an individual experience associated with pleasure (and especially with privatized consumption). Happiness studies indicate that happiness cannot be separated from a successful society. Recent data from the United States show how life satisfaction is declining with economic decay. The World Happiness Report of 2015 also helps us to distinguish between societies that recovered quickly from the global financial crisis and those that did not.


Institute for Religion, Politics, and Society

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Journal Article

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