Critically Examine the Extent to Which Happiness Is Linked with the Content of Our Leisure Lifestyles

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Critically examine the extent to which happiness is linked with the content of our leisure lifestyles.

The focal point of this paper is happiness and the degree to which it is connected with the content of people’s leisure lifestyles. Therefore, to examine this subject thoroughly, an insight into some of the psychological and physiological theories will be presented.

The definition of happiness is one of the greatest philosophical quandaries. As said by one of the greatest contributors to Western philosophy, Aristotle, “more then anything else, men and women seek happiness.” Moreover, every ambition such as health, beauty, money, or power is treasured only because people expect that it will bring them happiness. (Csikszentmihalyi, 1992)

Throughout the centuries, psychologists and philosophers searched for ways in which to improve the quality of experience. A great contribution in understanding what conditions can generate happiness comes from sociology, economics and neuroscience.

Although, Aristotle died even before the Christ was born, as said by Csikszentmihalyi (1992) “we do not understand what happiness is any better than Aristotle did.”

Yet, despite all the great knowledge and amazing improvements, which made our lives more comfortable,

“people still end up feeling that their lives have been wasted , that instead of being filled with happiness their years were spent in anxiety and boredom.”
Csikszentmihalyi (1992, p.1)

Layard (2005),observes that, although societies became richer, people are not happier. A comparable view holds Scitovsky (1992), who notes that, when people become richer with other people, they become happier. But when whole societies have become richer, they have not become happier.

Possibly more significant source of satisfaction, still connected with income hierarchy is work. According to Marx, work provided the most important means for people to fulfill their basic needs and held the key to human happiness. However, he also believed that, this primary human activity can be a source of depravation of people’s nature and relationships with others. Marx developed the idea of ‘alienated labour’, where individuals are disconnected from their work. This can be observed on capitalist economies where the ownership of the means of production belongs to a minority, and workers do not own goods they make. As a result, they become alienated not only from their actual work, but also from themselves. They feel ‘physically exhausted and mentally debased’ and only during their leisure time they can be themselves. (Haralambos&Holborn,1990)

Marx’s ideal model of work was:
‘a process in which man (…) of his own accord starts, regulates, and controls the material recreations between himself and the Nature’. Torkildsen (1992, p. 36)

The theory of alienation, which according to its founder, was one of the main aims of communism, have been developed by neo- Marxist sociologists. Andrew Gorz, citied in Haralambos&Holborn (1990) saw the consumption of products as a more important phenomena and argued that alienation at work leads the worker to searching for self- fulfillment in leisure. They observed that leisure provides ‘means of escape’ from the problem, although the basic dissatisfaction remains unchanged.

According to Gorz, this process creates the passive consumer who finds pleasure in the consumption of the products produced by the entertainment industries.

A related view held Herbert Marcuse, who introduced the idea that: ‘society encourages the individual to develop certain ‘needs’, which are not essential but which serve the interest of society as whole.’ Torkildsen (1992, p. 82)

Such desires as ‘need’ for cars, television or kitchen equipment, Marcuse called ‘false needs’, as they are only created to be seen as basic. Specialization, fragmentation, isolation and repetitiveness contributed to anonymity and alienation for many...
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