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Satisfaction Not GuaranteedDilemmas of Progress in Modern Society$
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Peter N. Stearns

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780814783627

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814783627.001.0001

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Being Cheerful and Modern

(p.1) 1 Introduction
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Peter N. Stearns

NYU Press

This introductory chapter ponders on the optimistic notions of modernity posited throughout history, noting that while in some ways these predictions have been accurate modernity has seemed to fail in its promise of promoting happiness and contentment. As a matter of fact, the innovations and conveniences that modernity offers have brought forth new complications. By the twenty-first century, modern life has generated an almost frenzied sense of compulsions—to keep up with consumer standards, to maintain a vigorous pace of work, to keep track of often overscheduled kids. Modernity itself tends to distract from contemplation, replacing it with a barely concealed impatience or fear of boredom (two relatively recent products—boredom as an identified state is only a bit over two centuries old—that are not the most attractive products of the modern condition). An examination of what a meaningful life entails, therefore, becomes worthy of study in this light.

Keywords:   modernity, history, twenty-first century, happiness, contentment, meaningful life

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