Happiness by Darrin M. McMahon
A History

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Darrin M. McMahon's sweeping new book, chronicling the evolution of happiness over two thousand years of Western culture and thought, argues that our modern belief in happiness — that happiness is a natural right — is a relatively recent development. It is a product of a dramatic revolution in human expectations carried out since the eighteenth century. Central to the development of Christianity, ideas of happiness assumed their modern form during the Enlightenment, when men and women were first introduced to the novel prospect that they could — in fact should — be happy in this life as opposed to the hereafter. Ultimately, the Enlightenment's recognition of happiness as a motivating ideal led to its consecration in the Declaration of Independence and France's Declaration of the Rights of Man. McMahon follows this great pursuit through to the present day, showing how our modern search for happiness continues to generate new forms of pleasure, but also, paradoxically, new forms of pain. In the tradition of works by Peter Gay and Simon Schama, Happiness draws on numerous sources, including art and architecture, poetry and scripture, music and theology, literature and myth to offer a sweeping intellectual history of man's most elusive yet coveted goal.

About Darrin M. McMahon

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New York University
Published November 28, 2005 by Atlantic Monthly Press. 560 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Happiness

The New York Times

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A historian considers approaches to happiness through the ages.

Feb 12 2006 | Read Full Review of Happiness: A History

BC Books

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The ivory tower, as it were, is not as towering as one would think.

Aug 29 2006 | Read Full Review of Happiness: A History

Book Reporter

It was in "democratic Athens that individuals first put forth that great, seductive goal, daring to dream that they might pursue --- and capture --- happiness for themselves."

Jan 22 2011 | Read Full Review of Happiness: A History

Bookmarks Magazine

Based on years of research, including that of groundbreaking happiness expert and Nobel laureate Daniel Hahneman, Happiness reveals how societal pressures to make money, compete, and accrue possessions take a heavy toll on overall happiness.

Aug 28 2007 | Read Full Review of Happiness: A History

The Atlantic

Desire and effort to obtain happiness are not unique to the United States, of course, but it is a place where the standard is relentless cheer and optimism, where the answer to the question of work is to “follow your bliss,” where manic pop songs proclaim “this is the best day of my life” and “I ...

Jul 26 2016 | Read Full Review of Happiness: A History

Project MUSE

Action may not bring happiness but there is no happiness.

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