, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 219–233 | Cite as

The happiness turn: Axel Honneth, self-reification and ‘sickness unto health’

  • Alastair Morgan
Original Article


In this article I argue that the current social agenda constructed around the pursuit of happiness is enmeshed in a fundamental contradiction. The search for happiness acknowledges that happiness consists in a life lived beyond the self, but remains trapped within the orbit of what C.B. Macpherson has termed ‘possessive individualism’. This is the idea that we can own our own capacities as though they are a form of property. The promotion of happiness as an individual good promotes and extends an individualist agenda, and encourages the idea that happiness can be produced by a series of practices of self-monitoring that objectify emotions in order to produce the goal of a happy life. I utilise Axel Honneth’s account of a form of self-relationship as reification to give an account of how this search for happiness turns into a form of modern sickness.


happiness subjectivity reification health individualism 


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alastair Morgan
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of Health and Wellbeing, Sheffield Hallam UniversitySheffieldUK

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