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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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The Gap

The Gap

Happiness Scales and the Edge of Sadness

(p.15) 2 The Gap
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Peter N. Stearns

NYU Press

This chapter considers the assessments currently used for measuring happiness—and more broadly, for puzzling out the solution to the modernity–happiness gap. Happiness, of course, is notoriously hard to define and measure. Even within a single society, multiple definitions of happiness emerge. Most happiness research seeks to combine current emotional state (which can be quite volatile) with more cognitive assessments of longer-term satisfaction, but still a firm definition remains elusive. Furthermore, a discord is revealed within this gap, as the findings in the chapter illustrate: for most Westerners, Americans included, modern social changes and the ongoing happiness culture simply don't fully mesh; for an apparently growing minority, in their own eyes and those of a society intolerant of sadness, they clash outright, sometimes with tragic personal results.

Keywords:   modernity–happiness gap, happiness research, happiness assessments, modern social changes, happiness culture

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