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IELTS Reading Passage – Book Review
The Happiness Industry: How the Government and Big Business Sold Us Well-Being By William Davies
Richard Layard, an economist and advocate of “positive psychology,” has summarised the ideologies and faith of various people nowadays in his proclamation that “happiness is the ultimate goal because it is self-evidently good. If we are asked why happiness matters, we can give no further external reason.It is just evident that it matters.” For Layard and others like him, the goal of government is to foster an environment of shared prosperity. The only issue is how to attain it, and here positive psychology—a purported science that not only detects what makes individuals happy but also lets their happiness be quantified—may indicate the way. With the guidance of this study, governments, as per theorists, are currently more capable than ever before of ensuring harmony in society.
It is an incredibly primitive and simplistic style of thinking, yet it is rising in popularity due to this. The huge philosophical literature that has studied and challenged the meaning and worth of happiness is neglected by those who embrace this mind-set, and they write as if no significant ideas had been studied on the subject prior to their realisation. The emergence of this method of thinking was due in large part to the work of philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832). For Bentham, it was apparent that happiness and the lack of misery constitute the human good. In the 4th century BC, the Greek philosopher Aristotle connected happiness with self-realisation, and scholars throughout the years attempted to combine the goal of happiness with other human virtues, although all of this was just metaphysics or fiction to Bentham. Modern proponents of positive psychology follow in his footsteps, condemning as obsolete and unnecessary almost the entire ethical reflection on human pleasure to date, despite knowing nothing about him or the school of moral theory he founded—as they are ignorant in the history of ideas due to education and philosophical conviction.
However, as William Davies points out in his new book, The Happiness Industry, assuming that happiness is the prime self-evident good restricts moral analysis. This rich, clear, and compelling book’s ability to contextualise the modern cult of happiness inside a precisely defined historical context is one of its many merits. Davies was correct in his assessment of Bentham, recognising that he was significantly more than just a philosopher. According to Davies, Bentham engaged in activities that modern-day management consultants serving the public sector may partake in. In the 1790s, he addressed letters to the Bank of England with a model for a printing machine that could generate unforgeable banknotes and to the Home Office with a suggestion that the government’s various departments be interlinked by a system of “conversation tubes.” To preserve food like meat, fish, fruit, and vegetables, he designed a “frigidarium.” His renowned plan for a jail known as a “Panopticon,” in which inmates would be confined in solitary while always being monitored by the guards, came extremely close to being implemented. (Interestingly, Davies does not address the fact that Bentham envisioned his Panopticon to serve as a model for both a jail and a control mechanism that could be utilised in both schools and factories.)
Bentham also established the “science of happiness.” If happiness is to be considered a science, then it must be quantified. Bentham presented two methods for measuring happiness. He proposed that pleasure might be measured by taking the average heart rate of a person and seeing happiness as a complex of pleasant emotions. As an alternative, the value of money might be used as the criterion for quantification: if the cost of two distinct products is the same, it can be stated that both give the customer the same amount of happiness. The latter attribute grabbed Bentham’s eye more. According to Davies, Bentham “established the foundation for the combination of psychological study and capitalism, which would influence the activities of the twentieth century,” by associating money so intimately with inner experience.
In the book The Happiness Industry, it is explained how the pursuit of a science of pleasure has merged with business. We learn a lot of interesting information on the redefining and treatment of economic concerns as psychological conditions. Additionally, Davies demonstrates how management studies and advertising have been influenced by the idea that inner joy and dissatisfaction can be assessed objectively. The inclination of philosophers like J. B. Watson, the pioneer of behaviourism*, was that managers and politicians could mould or influence people. Watson’s theories on human nature were not backed by any facts. He had only conducted studies on white rats when he was appointed president of the American Psychological Association in 1915. He had “never really examined a fellow human being.” The government in Britain has founded a “Behaviour Insights Team” to research how individuals might be motivated to live in ways that are thought to be socially desirable while incurring the lowest expenses to the public purse. However, Watson’s reductive model has already been extensively adopted.
To keep people motivated in their work, modern industrial nations seem to require the potential for ever-increasing happiness. But regardless of its conceptual heritage, the theory that authorities ought to be in charge of fostering happiness is always hazardous to people’s freedom.
* behaviourism: a field of psychology in which focus is on observable behaviour
Book Review Reading Questions
Choose the correct letter, A,B,C or D. Write the correct letter in the boxes 1-3 on your answer sheet.
1. The critic mentions the Greek philosopher Aristotle, to state that happiness ______.
- is not something that should be fought for.
- may not be just pleasure and the absence of pain.
- is not just an abstract concept.
- should not be the main goal of humans.
2. In Davies’ opinion, the suggestion that was given by Bentham’s to link the prices to happiness was remarkable because _____.
- it established a connection between work and psychology.
- it involved consideration of the rights of consumers.
- it was the first successful way of assessing happiness.
- it was the first successful example of psychological research.
3. What is the reviewer’s opinion on the proponents of positive psychology?
- They have a fresh new approach to ideas on human happiness.
- They are wrong to reject the ideas of Bentham.
- They are ignorant about the ideas they should be considering.
- They are over-influenced by their study of Bentham’s theories.
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Complete the summary using the list of words A-G below. Write the correct letter, A-G, in the boxes 4-8 on your answer sheet.
Jeremy Bentham was active in other areas besides philosophy. In the 1970s he suggested a type of technology to improve 4…………. for different Government departments. He developed a new way of printing banknotes to increase 5…………. and also designed a method for the 6……….. of food. He also drew up plans for a prison which allowed the 7…………. of prisoners at all times, and believed the same design could be used for other institutions as well. When researching happiness, he investigated possibilities for its 8………… and suggested some methods of doing this.
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Do the following statements agree with the claims of the writer in the Reading Passage? In the boxes 9-14 on your answer sheet, write
YES if the statement agrees the claims of the writer
NO if the statement contradicts the claims of the writer
NOT GIVEN if it is impossible to say what the write thinks about this
9. Industrialisation is connected to the requirement of happiness.
10. Prior to 1915, Watson conducted study on people that supported his theories of behaviourism.
11. Government’s main objective should be to increase the population’s happiness.
12. The Happiness Industry’s strength is the discussion of the connection between psychology and commerce.
13. The theories by Watson had immense influence on the governments outside America.14. Certain emotions are more challenging to measure than others.
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Book Review IELTS reading answers
13. NOT GIVEN
14. NOT GIVEN
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