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Happiness: Lessons from a New Science [Paperback]

Richard Layard
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)

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Happiness: Lessons from a New Science (Second Edition) Happiness: Lessons from a New Science (Second Edition) 4.4 out of 5 stars (32)
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Book Description

6 April 2006
In this landmark book, Richard Layard shows that there is a paradox at the heart of our lives. Most people want more income. Yet as societies become richer, they do not become happier. This is not just anecdotally true, it is the story told by countless pieces of scientific research. We now have sophisticated ways of measuring how happy people are, and all the evidence shows that on average people have grown no happier in the last fifty years, even as average incomes have more than doubled. In fact, the First World has more depression, more alcoholism and more crime than fifty years ago. This paradox is true of Britain, the United States, continental Europe, and Japan. What is going on?

Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; 2nd Revised edition edition (6 April 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141016906
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141016900
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 56,790 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Unorthodox, devastatingly straightforward and more provocative of actual thought than 90% of books said to be "thought-provoking". If happiness isn't a political issue, what's the point of politics? (Andrew Marr)

A remarkable book ... which effectively trashes the claim of economics to guide policy for a good society ... read it, and take heart (Simon Caulkin Observer)

Fascinating ... argues that we should make happiness, not growth, the object of our economic policies (John Kay Financial Times) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Richard Layard is a leading economist who believes that the happiness of society does not necessarily equate to its income. He is best known for his work on unemployment and inequality, whihc provided the intellectual basis for Britain's improved unemployment policies. He founded the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics, and since 2000 he has been a member of the House of Lords. His research into the subject of happiness brings together findings from such diverse areas as psychology, neuroscience, economics, sociology and philosophy.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
There is a paradox at the heart of our lives. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I don't care too much for money... 14 Nov 2005
... Money can't buy me love, or it would seem happiness, if the statistics on depression and anxiety in the modern western world compared with the 1950s are to be believed. This book is about the paradox of market economics - we pursue ever greater productivity, flexibility and trade, and our material wealth piles up - yet we do not seem to get happier. Indeed, the things that make us happy - friends, family, love, community - are not things that we trade, and modern economies tend to atomise us into consumers, living far from our families and barely knowing our neighbours.
Professor Layard's strength in adressing this subject is that he comes from a hard-edged economics backgroud. There is no woolyness here, no hostility towards success. Instead, there is a rational effort to focus on happiness as the correct priority for public policy - including economic policy. Facinating, but unfortunatly the prognosis is a great deal clearer than the cure.
Truely thought provoking, even it some of those thoughts are "well we really have messed it all up."
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
I think this was the book that started the current trendiness of Happiness. Despite being fairly short it covers everything you could possibly want to know, and has a bibliography and internet links for anyone wanting to know more about any particular topic.

It is an important book because in some ways the modern world is making people more and more unhappy. But it doesn't have to be that way. The author offers suggestions, backed by solid evidence, for political and economic reforms and also for personally achieving greater happiness.
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
This book makes a compelling and accessible case that the new science of happiness is very relevant to how we shape our society. Layard is an economist by education and argues that his own profession has been complacent in almost unthinkingly using consumption as a practical approximation of happiness. The policy recommendations that result have made us richer, but often not happier. Layard says that it is now possible to measure happiness and thus there is no excuse not to tailor policies to achieve the goal of making society happier. In a very readable fashion he connects recent research on what makes people happy (things like stable families, socially integrated neighbourhoods and low unemployment) to some possible policies. Although one may not agree with some of his recommendations the book is refreshing in its approach. As a result I feel that all my fellow economists should read this to get a new perspective on our profession. Politicians and voters should also read it for new insights on how we should shape our society.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Revolutionary 14 Dec 2005
As a student of economics at A level, I found this book truly revolutionary. We all know that money does not equal happiness, but perhaps the advocates of materialism needed reminding once more.
The book proposes that the main objective of a society should be gross national happiness. In this way it shifts the economic goalposts from wealth to welfare. As happiness can now, supposedly, be accurately measured it seems a more realisic goal. It is the measurement of happiness which is instrumental in a shift of perspective, as previously it had been thought that happiness could not be measured. Therefore it would be impossible to judge the success of a policy aimed towards increasing happiness.
The fact that each person has different things that make them happy could serve to undermine a governmental pursuit of happiness on behalf of the masses. The book does not provide much in the way of policy that could increase happiness, even though it claims to do so. The policies it advocates include: tax as internalising the negative externality derived from earning more income than your peers, more PSHE lessons in schools, searching for a common goal, fostering a sense of community. Apart from the first; these policies, although differing from capitalism, are hardly revolutionary. As a critique of the current school of thought: excellent, but in terms of coming up with policy: only good.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At last a bit of co-operation! 14 July 2005
By Deb
For anybody that's feeling particularly poor, this is a wonderful book. Easy to read and a real 'page-turner', I couldn't put it down. I was really impressed that so may disciplines had been referenced throughout, psychology, sociology, economics etc, and think it's high time that professionals stopped trying to guard their particular corners and worked together. A publication that could be read alongside 'The Rebel Sell - How counterculture became consumerculture', as another indicator of society's
growing disillusion with money being the answer to all problems. Highly recommended.
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46 of 52 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Important topic, important book 7 Mar 2005
By A Customer
Richard Layard is very convincing in his argument that more money does not necessarily make you happier. This is an important and very hot topic (just last month McConnell's 'Make Money, Be Happy' argued a similar case but on a more personal 'what do I do about it' level).
Layard is an economist, but he brings in helpings of philosophy, psychology and neuroscience along the way. It's a very thought provoking book.
If McConnell, Layard and others are right, as the evidence suggests they are, then the question is what this means for capitalism as we know it? If more money doesn't make us happier than capitalism starts to look a bit rocky.
Layard's Happiness is the No Logo style agenda book laying out all the evidence and exploring what does and doesn't make us happy. McConnell's Make Money Be Happy is perfect if you are trying to work out how on earth you find the right balance between money and happiness in your life. Actually they complement each other perfectly.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great investigation of what makes us happy and how society can improve...
I'd been meaning to read this book for some time and wasn't disappointed. It is an excellent analysis of all the latest research, including the author's own, into what makes people... Read more
Published 6 months ago by MISS K J MIDDLETON
5.0 out of 5 stars Accessible and informative
This is an excellent academic text that includes real riguorous academic research by Layard (top British economist). Read more
Published 7 months ago by Rosh
5.0 out of 5 stars Makes total sense
Read lots of books re happiness but love that this is based on facts and makes total sense backed up by lots of studies/research.
Published 17 months ago by Tony Dwyer
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic
This book is well written, clear, easy to understand and wonderfully hopeful and positive about 'where to from here' on the search for happiness, not only as an individual but as a... Read more
Published 22 months ago by Joanne5000
5.0 out of 5 stars Spread a little happiness
I'm particularly interested in whether my mind can control my mood. The notion of happiness being something we can switch on and off is something I am sympathetic to, but... Read more
Published on 1 Nov 2011 by Penelope Young
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic read
Written by the founder of 'movement for happiness' now better known as the 'action for happiness' movement which has appeared on bbc1. Read more
Published on 26 July 2011 by Ms. S. L. Mercieca
5.0 out of 5 stars Happiness :)
Such a great read. Really challenges perceptions, especially regarding gross national product with respect to happiness. Read more
Published on 21 July 2011 by flux
4.0 out of 5 stars Insightful but a frustrating read - worth persevering with
Packed with fascinating facts and ideas, this book could have been really important, if it had just been a bit better written. Read more
Published on 1 May 2011 by C. Young
5.0 out of 5 stars a very important book
some excellent ideas and theories in this book of which i totaly agree with. in my opinion the majority of the public would support a move towards gwb as apposed to gnp, we just... Read more
Published on 14 Jan 2011 by W. Farmer
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting - but not a self help book
When I bought this one I was half expecting a self-help book, or at the very least some significant elements of this. Read more
Published on 25 Jun 2010 by g.buxton
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