© 2013

Human Happiness and the Pursuit of Maximization

Is More Always Better?

  • Hilke Brockmann
  • Jan Delhey

Part of the Happiness Studies Book Series book series (HAPS)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-viii
  2. Hilke Brockmann, Jan Delhey
    Pages 1-14
  3. Peter C. Whybrow
    Pages 15-26
  4. Kurt Bayertz
    Pages 41-54
  5. Valerie Tiberius
    Pages 55-67
  6. Ulrich Schimmack, Hyunji Kim
    Pages 115-129
  7. Robert Davidson, Alexander C. Pacek, Benjamin Radcliff
    Pages 163-175
  8. Back Matter
    Pages 211-216

About this book


This book tests the critical potential of happiness research to evaluate contemporary high-performance societies. These societies, defined as affluent capitalist societies, emphasize competition and success both  institutionally and culturally. Growing affluence improves life in many ways, for a large number of people. We lead longer, safer, and more comfortable lives than previous generations. But we also live faster, and are competition-toughened, like top athletes. As a result, we suspect limits and detect downsides of our high-speed lives. The ubiquitous maximization principle opens up a systematic gateway to the pleasures and pains of contemporary life. Using happiness as a reference point, this book explores the philosophical and empirical limits of the maximization rule. It considers the answer to questions such as: Precisely, why did the idea of (economic) maximization gain so much ground in our Western way of thinking? When, and in which life domains, does maximization work, when does it fail? When do qualities and when do quantities matter? Does maximization yield a different (un)happiness dividend in different species, cultures, and societies?


Consumptiom and Happiness Downsides of modern societies Economy and society Happiness and Maximization Happiness and Well-Being Happiness in different societies and cultures Maximization in Biological Evolution Measures of National Well-Being Mental health on high-speed lives Neuroscience of Well-Being Public Policy and Human Happiness State Care for Happiness of Its Citizens Treating Mental Dysfunction

Editors and affiliations

  • Hilke Brockmann
    • 1
  • Jan Delhey
    • 2
  1. 1., School of Humanities and Social SciencesJacobs University BremenBremenGermany
  2. 2.School of Humanities and Social SciencesJacobs UniversityBremenGermany

About the editors

Hilke Brockmann is a Professor of Sociology at Jacobs University, Bremen and an experienced expert in population aging and well-being research. Her work deals with the individual and health related consequences of large-scale demographic, political and social changes. She has published in major international journals, is a member of the Editorial Board of Health Sociology Review, of several professional associations and an alumni of the Max Planck Society. She also counsels public health insurances, marketing boards, firms, and political parties.

Jan Delhey, Professor of Sociology at Jacobs University, Bremen, is an internationally renowned expert in comparative quality of life research. He has published on living conditions, subjective well-being, trust, and social cohesion in leading European and international journals (his next piece of work on trust will appear in the American Sociological Review). He is a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Happiness Studies and member of the board of directors of the International Society for Quality-of-Life Studies. For the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions he has worked as an expert advisor for European-wide social reporting. Contributor to the World Book of Happiness; numerous radio and newspaper interviews.

Bibliographic information

Industry Sectors
Finance, Business & Banking


From the reviews:

“This is an important book presenting clear evidence within the fields of philosophy, social, and natural science about the myth of maximization as the source of happiness. … Human Happiness and the Pursuit of Maximization is an important contribution to the literature that encourages readers to look at maximization in its relation to happiness at the individual and social levels.” (Louis Hoffman and Monica Mansilla, PsycCRITIQUES, Vol. 59 (17), 2014)