Pursuing happiness: it’s mostly a matter of surviving well together

Pursuing happiness: it’s mostly a matter of surviving well together

Analyses, Jenny Cameron, Katherine Gibson, Stephen Healy

Katherine Gibson, Western Sydney University; Jenny Cameron, University of Newcastle, and Stephen Healy, Western Sydney University

This article is part of a series, On Happiness, examining what it means and how it might be achieved in the 21st century.


Understandings of happiness are shifting. More and more research is finding that we cannot spend our way to happiness. Increasing incomes do not necessarily lead to increasing happiness. Even in a country such as China, average incomes have increased fourfold since the 1990s while life satisfaction has decreased over the same period.

Research is also finding that happiness is less an individual matter and more a collective endeavour. The quality of our relationships with others is pivotal. These others include those closest to us (our immediate family and friends) as well as those unknown to us but with whom we comprise a society.

In a climate-changing world, this relational understanding of happiness also has to extend to our relationship with the planet on which our survival depends.

The shift in understanding happiness could not be better summed up than in the words of the first elected prime minister of Bhutan in 2008:

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After capitalism, what comes next? For a start, ethics

After capitalism, what comes next? For a start, ethics

Analyses, Capital, Jenny Cameron, Katherine Gibson, Stephen Healy

Jenny Cameron, University of Newcastle; Katherine Gibson, Western Sydney University, and Stephen Healy, Western Sydney University

If the comments generated by the recent publication of excerpts from Paul Mason’s forthcoming book, Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future, are anything to go by, its release at the end of the month should kick up a storm.

Mason’s book is about a seismic economic shift already underway, one that is as profound as the transformation from feudalism to capitalism. In the excerpts, Mason observes that:

… whole swaths of economic life are beginning to move to a different rhythm.

The shift is evidenced by developments such as collaborative production and the sharing economy. Mason attributes this economic transformation to advances in information technology, particularly the global networks of people and ideas that are now possible.

Such large-scale pronouncements inevitably generate an equally strong pushback, albeit in very different ways. For example, some comments on the published excerpts align with Fredric Jameson’s observation that sometimes for the Left:

… it is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism.

Other comments are more aligned with climate-change denialism and the sentiment that “it is easier to desire the end of the world than to desire the end of capitalism”.

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