Living Bibliography


The Joyless Economy: The Psychology of Human Satisfaction

Oxford University Press
 — 1992

Tibor Scitovsky’s first four chapters present what remains one of the most artful and accessible summaries of what psychologists know about human motivation. Economists will learn that the concept of utility in economic models corresponds to the psychologist’s notion of comfort; and they will see substantial evidence against the idea that people are comfort maximizers. This book remains a major critique of modern and especially economic values Based on “Happiness Paradox”, in this essay, the author advised that we should spend our money on things that we will not adapt to (“stimulation good” or “relational good” , such a beautiful scenery or meeting good friends – things that can continually fascinate us and provide a degree of fulfillment) rather than wasting our time and money buying things which we get adapted to (“comfort good”, such as a newer and fancier-looking sofa, etc. – the pleasure of which is temporary and fades with time).

Certain types of consumption, he argues in this essay, are “joyless”, others “joyful” and the difference between them is a composite of several things of which challenge, risk and a sense of accomplishment would be major factors. Scitovsky has extended his ideas into social critique: specialization has taken much of the joy out of work, he has argued, and consumption in “American way-of-life” society (more than any other) has placed far too great a stress on comfort and safety in consumption and living, thereby depriving consumption activities of their challenging, risky and difficult elements, i.e. “joy”. The “cure” for a joyless society, Scitovsky maintains, is to “educate” our consumption so as to infuse it with those joyful elements. While Scitovsky’s arguments may seem daring, he stands in good company: Thorstein Veblen, John Kenneth Galbraith and Robert Frank are but a handful of the many other prominent economists who stress the need to think carefully about the “qualitative” aspects of economic progress.

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