Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Are We Having Fun Yet?: Happiness and its Implications For Political Studies

Thomas Moore Kane.

The end of the state is the “good life,” Aristotle tells us. By this, he means a “happy and honourable“ life. America’s Declaration of Independence states that people have a God-given right to pursue happiness. Contemporary political studies have little to say about happy living. People, however, remain as concerned about their happiness as ever, and if scholars are to play a productive role in shaping humanity’s political future, they must put happiness back on their research agenda.

Positivist research methods have difficulty addressing subjective concepts such as happiness. There have been several prominent psychological studies of happiness recently, and some of them appear to have political implications. Nevertheless, these studies fall short of explaining how people fail and succeed at finding the good life within a political community. The author suggests that humanities disciplines such as literature may explore the connection between happiness and politics more thoroughly than technocratic, economic and excessively rationalistic approaches.

Accordingly, the author uses selections from both classic novels (e.g. Dostoevsky) and contemporary fiction to flesh out the concept of political happiness. Happiness proves to be simple and atomistic. People find satisfaction from the most mundane and obvious of sources. Unfortunately for theorists, attempts to dissect this experience lead to absurdities and unfortunately for administrators, attempts to regulate this experience destroy it. If we wish to address happiness effectively in political studies, we must recognise its nature, and if we value it, we must honour it as an end in itself.


Thomas Moore Kane  (United Kingdom)
Dept. of Politics
University of Hull

  • Happiness
  • Political Studies
  • Positivism
  • Aristotle
  • Dostoevsky
  • Utopia
  • Dystopia

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)