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Guest Thinkers

Quitting the Cult of Happiness

French writer and philosopher Pascal Bruckner says the values that accompany our time’s ceaseless drive to be happy are counterproductive—what we need, he says, is a new humility.

French writer and philosopher Pascal Bruckner, in a malaise characteristic of his nation’s post-war intellectual tradition, says we in the modern age are, in a sense, condemned to be happy. “We now find ourselves guilty of not being well, a failing for which we must answer to everyone and to our own consciences. Consider the poll, conducted by a French newspaper, in which 90 percent of people questioned reported being happy. Who would dare admit that he is sometimes miserable and expose himself to social opprobrium? This is the strange contradiction of the happiness doctrine when it becomes militant and takes on the power of ancient taboos—though in the opposite direction. To enjoy was once forbidden; from now on, it’s obligatory.”


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