Continuing from the debate on happiness for OpenDemocracy, I have an article in the current New Left Review, entitled 'The Political Economy of Unhappiness'. This stems from a curiosity I've had for some time, of how it is that economists and statisticians have come to grapple with issues that were once the preserve of Frankfurt School Marxists, namely suffering and the paradoxes of 'progress'. I argue:
As the recent statistical interest in social and economic ‘progress’ suggests, the neo-classical discourse surrounding happiness and unhappiness invariably strays into ethical, then teleological, and then critical terrain. On the one hand this leads to an instrumentalization of critical, ethical and Enlightenment concerns (as the measurement of historical progress would suggest); but on the other, the contradictions and injuries of neo-liberal capitalism start to show up within the very positivist bodies of knowledge that are intended to regulate and sustain it. If the ‘need to lend a voice to suffering is a condition of all truth’, perhaps liberal economics is on the verge of uncovering truths that it never previously imagined.
I might add that this piece is rumoured to be the first ever New Left Review article to cite The Daily Mail.