Skillfully written intellectual entertainment—prime fodder for postmodern psychologists and New-Age thinkers alike.

THE HAPPINESS INDUSTRY

HOW THE GOVERNMENT AND BIG BUSINESS SOLD US WELL-BEING

Durable reportage on governmental and commercial attempts to influence and propagate national well-being.

British sociologist and political economist Davies (The Limits of Neoliberalism: Authority, Sovereignty and the Logic of Competition, 2014) scrutinizes an increasingly desirous yet elusive commodity: human happiness. He asserts that proof of well-being lies in scientifically measured studies with verifiable data, not with advertisers and pharmaceutical companies “watching, incentivizing, prodding, optimizing and pre-empting us psychologically.” The author profiles 18th-century philosopher Jeremy Bentham and discusses how his doctrine of utilitarianism might also be applied to modern theories of individual happiness. Davies believes a race has begun to discover and ultimately develop what motivates human psychology in order to apply methods of achieving contentment across a broad spectrum of societies. Spurred on by capitalism and strategically manipulated technology, influential corporate tastemakers have long sought to tap into (and capitalize on) the secrets of personal happiness by way of behavioral economics, advertising, and the often ethically dicey involuntary monitoring and calibration of human satisfaction. A section on how happiness quotients are actually measured—whether through a smile, a pulse rate, or a particularly impulsive purchase—makes for contemplative reading. Through neuroscientific research studies addressing everything from workplace satisfaction to the depression epidemic, Davies shares a wealth of relevant information that points to the vast marketing potential of commercializing the concept and achievement of universal human bliss and the “limitless pursuit of self-optimization.” Also significant is whether personal contentment can be bought, sold, managed, and manipulated via the global economic marketplace. If it hasn’t happened already, Davies writes, governmental and corporate entities are hard at work converting the concept of happiness into a “measurable, visible, improvable entity.”

Skillfully written intellectual entertainment—prime fodder for postmodern psychologists and New-Age thinkers alike.

Pub Date: May 12, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-78168-845-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Verso

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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