Conference Agenda

RN11_04a: Desire for Happiness
Wednesday, 21/Aug/2019:
6:00pm - 7:30pm

Session Chair: Jordan McKenzie, University of Wollongong
Location: BS.3.26
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Business School, Third Floor, North Atrium Oxford Road


Recipes for Happiness: Moral Orientation of Action and Emotion

Alberto Martín Pérez, José A. Rodríguez Díaz, Aitor D. Aguayo

University of Barcelona, Spain

In our research on The Happiness Industry (R&D project, Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities, Ref. CSO2016-77248-P, years 2016-2019), we analyze how happiness has become a market product as an object of desire and consumption. We have identified different types of happiness products that include messages or tips recommending actions for the achievement of happiness. Many messages take the form of recipes prescribed by a variety of social actors: both multinational and smaller companies, the media, and specifically, different profiles of ‘experts in happiness’. On the internet, there are numerous examples of indications whose purpose is to lead individuals to perform certain actions or to buy products leading to happiness. Based on this public and accessible information, we have built, through data mining procedures, an extensive sample of recipes for happiness that includes information about its inspirers, its disseminators, its mechanisms of legitimation -mainly through science-, as well as the fields of knowledge associated with each prescription. These large collection of recipes and ingredients is analyzed through grounded theory procedures, in search of the central categories of its discourse system. We understand the recipes for happiness as markers of specific actions to be carried out by individuals with a clear normative and moral intentionality: every prescription include morally binding feeling rules that must guide the social behavior of individuals.

Conceptualizing Happiness: Social Behavior Strategies In The Process Of Identification

Giedre Plepyte-Davidaviciene

Lithuanian Social Research Center, Lithuania

Keywords: happiness, identity, recognition, sociology of emotions

The main objective of the presentation is to deliver initial theoretical frame of a doctoral thesis whose aim is to understand how individuals experience happiness through their social identification process in a certain social-cultural context. Thesis assumes that happiness can be perceived as complex set of emotions (Holmes & McKenzie 2018). These can be experienced intersubjectively and are embedded in a particular social context which is framed by certain sets of meanings, values and norms. Experience of happiness closely relates to verification of self-identity that occurs through social relations. This seems to be connected to struggle for recognition as a process of validating one’s identity to a sufficient degree in a context of unequal power relations between social agents (Honneth, 1995). During such identification process individuals verify their personal, group or social identities with socially important others (Burke & Stets 2009, Stets & Burke 2014). Individuals can feel positive emotions when perception of the self in a certain social context corresponds to the standard meaning of identity (Stets & Burke 2014). On the other hand, they can experience frustration, envy or shame if the identity is not socially recognized. Thus, happiness as gaining recognition is linked to perceptions to equality and inequality in a giving context (Holmes & McKenzie 2018). The thesis strives to link sociology of emotions, formation of identity through self-verification and recognition with critical social theory.

Emotions and Society in the Digital Age: Revisiting the Postemotional Society Thesis

Andrew Kirton

University of Liverpool, United Kingdom

In 1997 Stjepan Mestrovic introduced the concept of 'postemotionalism' in an attempt to capture what he described as 'a distinct tendency in contemporary social life toward the mechanisation of emotional life' (1997: 1). He talks of 'a climate of affected, feigned emotion, as if it were rehearsed and planned ahead of time' (ibid: 13). This is not a society without or after emotion, but a society in which the place of ‘emotions’ and emotionality are fundamentally changed. Mestrovic’s original thesis and commentary have not been well received or acknowledged. In this paper I revisit and seek to recover elements of the postemotional society thesis in the context of digital social media however. It was Mestrocvic’s contention that postemotionalism had reached its apex in the 1990s, but I argue it is only in the age of digital social media, of algorithms and emoji, hashtags and ‘happy slapping’, that we might fully appreciate the efficacy of Mestrovic’s analysis. Whilst acknowledging some ambiguities and potential problems with the original thesis, I go on to highlight and discuss a range of contemporary and significant postemotional phenomena. I ultimately seek to update, develop and extend Mestrovic’s thesis as part of a broader analysis of emotions and society in the digital age.