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The Happiness Myth: The Historical Antidote to What Isn't Working Today Paperback – Bargain Price, February 5, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
What are those assumptions? In the chapter on drugs, Hecht reminds us of the widespread use of opiates to treat even the most common of maladies and asks us reconsider the benefits of mood-altering drugs, cautioning, of course, against debilitating addiction. Money, though not a guarantor of happiness, nonetheless stimulates shopping and the gathering of shoppers into malls so that it becomes the "central public pleasure" where we "communicate with each other in the symbolic associational meanings of our ever shifting wardrobes and possessions." Our "cult of the body" Hecht dismisses by observing that "in the context of most of human history, our idea that a good life includes a lot of physical exercise is bizarre." Some people might dismiss the public fascination with dead or missing females such as Princess Diana or Elizabeth Smart as obscene or exploitative, but Hecht, harkening back to the Demeter myth in ancient Greek festivals, counters that because of the lack of regular, public displays of mourning, "People show their mutual grief because they have mutual grief; they show it in these eruptions when there are insufficient ways to show it scheduled into the regular calendar.Read more ›
So why only 2 stars?
Frankly, I found this book very painful in various ways. There are many ways of approaching the subject of happiness. Instead of examining any one of the ways of looking at this question in depth, Hecht skims the surface.
This is particularly evident in the way that she handles the modern scientific studies of happiness. It's fine to criticize these studies and it's fine to ignore them (depending on context). Instead, Hecht just "sort of" engages with the studies. In the chapter on Money, she references the large body of work indicating that past a certain point, more money does not equal more happiness. Then, she argues that this is wrong. OK, I'm with her... but she just launches some cheap, small attacks on a small number of the studies. Then she uses "common sense" arguments to imply that the studies are wrong.
Well, the "big deal" with these studies is that our commonsense ideas about happiness are wrong. But Hecht doesn't seem to want to really grapple with these studies - she wants to mention them and just then dismiss them. It's not real intellectual argumentation.
Similarly, she bizarrely writes at length about how the links between diet and cancer now seem very weak. Well, what about heart disease (the leading killer in the USA of men)? Here, the links seem much, much stronger. So maybe diet matters... but wait a minute, how did we get to discussing this instead of the larger idea of how health and happiness are linked (to what extent, in what ways...)?Read more ›
However, should you look for a concise history of our take on happiness, and in effect how happiness is often a rather socially constructed path to whatever ends, then you'll be drawn into reading this book with great interest. Jennifer Michael Hecht (JMH) lines up many a view on happiness round concepts such a s wisdom, drugs, money, bodies, and celebration, from the ancient times to contemporaneity. Along the book, JMF hints only briefly at what might be viewed as her views/position on the above concepts. Some of the post-modern tools (e.g. irony) may even get in the way of any constructivist path to happiness, but this is just a sign of the times and intellectual debts of the author. Be patient though for the [C]onclusion chapter, titled "The Triumph of Experience" shows JMF's share of wisdom about happiness, which I dare summarize as moderation in experience. At a different level, the author seems to indicate that happiness and truth go hand in hand, and even though we may not learn the truth we should definitely be skeptical about the abounding lies that make some happy for a while. In other words, enduring happiness is rather the effect of wisdom.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This was ordered by Earl Crawford please send to his email address to be reviewed.Published 3 months ago by Geri Crawford
I've read all the books on happiness, and this is the best. Hecht's combination of easy erudition, extraordinary research, and a gentle sense of humor kept me rushing back to this... Read morePublished 3 months ago by West Coast Reader
“Money Can’t Buy Happiness” Um… YES IT CAN. Money can buy a safe place to live, food, clothing, healthcare, security for your family… Money means you can pay for an education and... Read morePublished 19 months ago by Melissa McCauley
Hecht provides an enjoyable read. The author is well versed in humanities, history and philosophy and uses these fields to present a distinct take on what makes humans happy and... Read morePublished on September 5, 2014 by loadsoftrouble
Hecht builds immediate rapport with her readers by touching on subject matter that we can, culturally speaking, all identify with. Read morePublished on May 15, 2014 by Stuart J Arkovitz
Hecht provides the reader with a very unusual and I believe quite valuable look at happiness. She is an excellent writer and historian - check out her book "Doubt" which was... Read morePublished on August 23, 2011 by Book Fanatic
I found it a interesting and enlightening read. I have always believed history is important and knowing it so we don't repeat....etc etc. Read morePublished on May 20, 2011 by E. Thompson
Yes, Hecht brings up some good points in her book. It is important to realize how culturally biased one's society is; how all societies are! Read morePublished on October 29, 2010 by C. Hays