Reading in parallel the sociologist Eva Illouz and the philosopher Clément Rosset on how the industry of happiness has taken control of our lives and the joy that comes from being aware of the tragedy of existence, I thought to myself: how can we help elected officials to reflect on these observations and enable them to give back confidence to citizens who find themselves confronted with this dilemma? The imperative of happiness puts the person before responsibilities that are not only his or her own. Employees are made to believe that they are responsible for the difficulties encountered by the company.

tribune1 chapuis

We have lost the joy that comes from the tragedy of life.

Column by Jean-Yves Chapuis, sociologist, urban planner, elected in Rennes city (France) from 1983 to 2014, former vice-president at the Rennes Metropolis and director of the school of architecture in Rennes. He is now an advisor in urban strategy.

Reading in parallel the sociologist Eva Illouz and the philosopher Clément Rosset on how the industry of happiness has taken control of our lives and the joy that comes from being aware of the tragedy of existence, I thought to myself: how can we help elected officials to reflect on these observations and enable them to give back confidence to citizens who find themselves confronted with this dilemma?

The imperative of happiness puts the person before responsibilities that are not only his or her own. Employees are made to believe that they are responsible for the difficulties encountered by the company. Individual and individualistic success is the credo of this neo-liberal world, which not only has an economic dimension, but which requires everyone in a constantly changing world to be able to find within themselves the springs to get by on their own. The industry of happiness developed with the second revolution of individualism, the narcissistic culture (1).

 Happiness became personal fulfillment. This has changed profoundly within advanced capitalist societies; responsibility is no longer collective, it becomes personal. It has made it possible to present structural deficits, contradictions, economic imbalances and flexibility as the responsibility of the person, of his psychology, his adaptability and his individual responsibility. So if I get better, everything will be fine. Everything comes from my willingness to be positive. "There is a general collapse of the social dimension in favor of the psychological dimension. "As Eva Illouz says. Being autonomous allows one to be flexible in this fluctuating neo-liberal world, unstable in ceaseless competition. 

It can no longer be contested; I, alone without others, must adapt to the challenges of the world. She goes further by saying that emotions motivate consumption; they are a constituent part of the meaning of the commodity but, even more essential, they are the commodity itself, which we not only buy but also (co)produce. In fact, there is no longer any true feeling, nor any authentic emotion, they have become commodities. We are asked to adapt to an emotional economy.

Alongside the refusal of the tragic of our existences, of our finitude, we forget this reality. We refuse this human condition as a whole. But if we do not admit this tragic part of reality, we cannot achieve moral health, joy and happiness. "It is necessary to learn to live with the tragic" as Clément Rosset says. Joy, true joy allows access to wisdom. It is not so simple, all the more so because there is no real image of happiness, it is linked to each and everyone according to his life, his choices, his social, economic and cultural condition. It can therefore be different, and in life we are often faced with a choice and one good is sacrificed in relation to another. Things are never clear and definitive. He adds: the 20th century is sick because of the weakening of the sense of the tragic, the source of this imbalance is in too perfect a balance between man and himself. Whereas what makes the value of our existence is a certain dissonance. We are dying of happiness. If we want to regain joy, we must first find the tragic.  

Accepting uncertainty, the complexity of life and our tragic condition is happiness or joy as Clément Rosset says so well.

 

(1) Christopher Lasch « la culture narcissique »

(2) Gilles Lipovetsky « le bonheur paradoxal »

Illustration :  "Rythme Joie de vivre" 1930 - Robert Delaunay

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