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Happiness: Lessons from a New Science Paperback – 6 Apr 2006


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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: 12.9 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 414,106 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

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.

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There is a paradox at the heart of our lives. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By John Ault VINE VOICE on 14 Nov. 2005
Format: Hardcover
... 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 By Martin Akiyama on 7 May 2006
Format: Hardcover
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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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By "lomocop" on 14 Dec. 2005
Format: Hardcover
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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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Menno Middeldorp on 30 Sept. 2006
Format: Paperback
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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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Deb on 14 July 2005
Format: Hardcover
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Clive P L Young on 1 May 2011
Format: Paperback
Packed with fascinating facts and ideas, this book could have been really important, if it had just been a bit better written. Layard eschews the established narrative structure of populist social scientists such as Levitt and Gladwell. Instead we get a stream of facts and ideas, a bit like sitting through a PowerPoint presentation, albeit quite a good one. The bullet point approach is frustrating though as the ideas and evidence are often too sketchy to really engage with.

The first part is about the 'science of happiness' and why despite better living standards public happiness has not increased. Layard suggests happiness can now be measured objectively, and we can pretty much say what causes it - family support, financial security, rewarding work, friends, good health, reasonable political freedom and reflective personal values). Absolute wealth is surprisingly unimportant; we soon used to extras and it is actually comparative wealth (i.e. social status) that is more critical.

The second part of the book suggests 'happiness' as a better public policy goal than 'economic growth' and so we should focus on stability, security, eliminating unemployment and poverty, and aim for a less materialistic, more social ('family friendly') and even perhaps spiritual approach to public life. It's fascinating, subtle, convincing stuff and well worth persevering with.

It's a shame so few of our growth-obsessed politicians are likely to read it.
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