Political Science | Politics and Happiness
Y490 | 12505 | Craiutu

In spite of the fact that citizens of advanced modern democracies
live in free and abundant societies, many of them claim to be
unhappy. For most types of people in the West, happiness has not
increased since 1950, although living standards and real income have
more than doubled. That is why it is important to take happiness
seriously and figure out what should we do differently if we shifted
our goal towards achieving a happier way of life. To what extent
does happiness depend on our inner life and on our outer
circumstances? What role can politics play in promoting happiness?
Does extra income increase happiness? Or should we work less and
have more leisure?

This course will seek to answer these questions by concentrating on
the relationship between economics, politics, philosophy, and
happiness. To this effect, we shall examine a representative
selection of works in related fields such as sociology, economics,
political theory, literature, and philosophy. We begin by asking how
we live today and explore next how we ought to live and what are the
main ingredients of happiness. This year, I organized the class
around five major themes: (1) the search for happiness in America
today; (2) work and leisure; (3) nature, solitude, and friendship;
(4) civilization and happiness; (5) science, politics, and happiness.
The texts that we’ll read in this class include David Brooks’s novel
Bobos in Paradise, Juliet Schor’s The Overworked American,  Freud’s
Civilization and Its Discontents, Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy
in America, Rousseau’s discourses, and selections from Seneca’s
Letters, Emerson’s Essays. Students will also be required to watch
and comment on a few movies that shed light on the topics discussed
in class. The requirements for the class include a take-home paper
and a final research group project that will deal with contemporary
political and social issues.