The Happiness Industry Book Summary By William Davies

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The Happiness Industry, written by William Davies in 2015, takes an inside look at how our emotions are studied, tracked and sold for corporate profit.

From psychological studies to marketing campaigns to everyday workplace dynamics, the book reveals how teams of psychologists, neuroscientists and economists collaborate with employers and politicians to analyze our most basic emotions – such as what makes us smile or laugh – in order to feed a greater economic goal.

As we become more aware of the ways in which our happiness is being commodified, The Happiness Industry will help readers gain insight into this complex system to better understand why these groups are constantly studying and profiting off of our feelings.

The Happiness Industry Book

Book Name: The Happiness Industry (How the Government and Big Business Sold Us Well-Being)

Author(s): William Davies

Rating: 3.9/5

Reading Time: 14 Minutes

Categories: Economics

Author Bio

William Davies is a renowned author and lecturer, who specializes in the field of political economy.

He currently serves as a senior lecturer and director at the Political Economy Research Centre at Goldsmiths, University of London.

His work has been widely published, appearing in publications like New Left Review, Prospect, Financial Times and Open Democracy.

His website was even featured in The New York Times.

William has been gaining traction over recent years due to his books, particularly one entitled 'The Limits of Neoliberalism' and most recently 'The Happiness Industry', which provides an interesting insight into how we measure happiness today and what it means for our future.

Explore The Fascinating World Of The Happiness Industry: Neuroscience, Economics, And Government Incentives


If you’re ever asked yourself the question, “Am I happy?”, then you’re likely not alone – and what’s more, people other than your mom might be actively seeking out the answer.

In The Happiness Industry, readers will get a glimpse into an industry where happiness has its own value that can be measured in neuroscience and technology.

It delves deeper into Jeremy Bentham’s theories on human happiness, as well as how our governments have incentives for us to remain happy.

The book offers real insights into understanding how your personal contentment is being used by corporations and governments alike.

By exploring economics alongside neuroscience and big data, you’ll gain unique insight into why so many want to know the answer to “Am I happy?” And who knows? You might even find out what your own perceived satisfaction means to those outside of your self-awareness.

Measuring Happiness: How Neuroscience, Philosophy, And Governments All Try To Quantify Joy

Utilitarian philosophers believe that happiness can be real and objective, depending on the situation.

Developments in neuroscience show that pleasure is a physiological event, which can be measured by observing chemical processes in the brain.

Jeremy Bentham, who founded modern utilitarianism, proposed two metrics for measuring happiness: pulse rate and money.

When people are happy, their pulse rates actually increase – a physical indicator of how someone is feeling.

Money also plays an important role in assessing emotion; we use it as a gauge of how useful or helpful something was to us.

And finally, governments use punishing and rewarding tactics to control human behavior and maximize the overall happiness of society.

They punish people who commit crimes and reward those with good behaviors with income or money rewards.

In conclusion, Utilitarian philosophers hold firmly to their belief that happiness is real and objective – measurable through science as well as through money and punishment/rewards.

Money, Pleasure, And Dopamine: Exploring The Relationship Between Money And Happiness

It has long been suggested that money equates to happiness, and economists, business owners and marketers have taken advantage of this idea.

Years of research into the relationship between pleasure and money have demonstrated time and time again that those with higher incomes are indeed happier than those with lower incomes.

Neuroscientists also understand the connection between pleasure and buying decisions.

It has been shown that when we make a purchase, reward centers in our brains activate due to dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is triggered by pleasurable activities.

One region of the brain, the nucleus accumbens, not only triggers decisions to purchase but also releases dopamine as the reward for doing so.

Therefore, any buying decision is seen as an internal reward system activated by specific pathways in our brains.

Given this research, it’s easy to see how people can be constantly persuaded that money is essential for achieving true happiness or contentment – especially given who is carrying out such research and what they stand to gain from positive results.

In effect, happiness itself becomes commodified through this research; something to be bought and sold for financial gain.

How Marketers Manipulate Your Feelings To Get You To Buy Products


Gone are the days when companies had to guess what their customers wanted and hope for the best when it came to advertising efforts.

Through modern market research, companies now have access to powerful insights about how consumers think, feel and behave.

This data is incredibly valuable when it comes to creating effective advertising campaigns that make us actually want to spend our hard-earned money.

One example of this kind of behavioral analysis can be seen in John Watson’s (1878–1958) baby powder campaign which evoked feelings of purity and cleanliness among young moms.

This effect was strengthened by subtly manipulating the emotions of his target audience through cleverly crafted copy and visuals.

Online marketers have also embraced this idea, using sophisticated approaches such as focus groups, A/B testing and predictive modeling to understand how customers interact with their ads online and tweak them in real time.

With this powerful insight, they can create more effective campaigns since they are able to better predict how their ads will be received.

The goal is never about getting people to buy the product per se: it’s about making them anticipate receiving something, which ultimately brings them happiness.

This joy from anticipation has been proven by Stanford neuroscientist Brian Knutson who found that humans experience a significant amount of pleasure when anticipating receiving a product, more so than from owning one.

Companies leverage on this fact by crafting campaigns that emphasize the experience of using a product over its features or physical characteristics.

All these tactics come together in today’s marketing landscape where companies understand their consumers better, resulting in successful ad campaigns that make us part with our cash….and sometimes not even realize we’re doing so!

As the Gallup study reveals, only 13 percent of the global workforce is engaged and enthusiastic about their jobs.

This can be very costly for businesses and governments, with an estimated $550 billion annually lost to absenteeism, sickness, burnout or just inertia when on the job.

This situation has led many governments and businesses to invest in health care programs that seek to foster workplace happiness among their employees, resulting in greater productivity.

Executive wellness programs are designed to promote the fitness of senior workers so that they’re able to run their business efficiently.

Companies are even bringing in “happiness consultants” who help develop a warmer work environment where people feel more comfortable and willing to work hard.

Google has its own “jolly good fellow” whose sole goal is to promote mindfulness and empathy among its workforce while ensuring high profits for the business at the same time.

Of course, it goes without saying that if employees feel happy and healthy, they’ll be able to maximize output—researchers estimate this could increase productivity by up to 12%.

Ultimately, promoting good health among staff means fewer heart attacks, strokes and nervous breakdowns so governments and companies have both a financial incentive—as well as a moral obligation—to ensure a contented and healthy workforce.

How Companies Use Social Bonds For Advertising: Corporate Giving And Friendvertising

Marketers have become savvy to the power of social relationships and use them to their advantage.

One such tactic is corporate giving, where companies offer free products or services as a way of increasing customer loyalty and building up their reputation.

Tesco, one of the UK’s leading supermarket chains, used this effectively with Christmas jumpers singing “thank you.”

Another technique that’s become increasingly popular is friendvertising -where marketers create positive ads and images that will spread on social media to garner positive attention from consumers.

Take Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” for example: it quickly went viral with its uplifting message about beauty that everyone could relate to.

It showed just how powerful word-of-mouth advertising can be in today’s age when shared at scale over the internet.

So next time when your scrolling through your feed, be aware of the social relationship tactics being used by marketers!

The Growing Risk Of Privacy Invasion: How Data And Happiness Have Become Commodities

Privacy Invasion

In our hyper-connected world, businesses can now surveil our online activity to learn more about our thoughts, feelings and emotions.

Data from our daily digital transactions with retailers, governments and each other are collected, analyzed and then used to predict human behavior.

This means that companies and advertisers have access to vast amounts of data on our interests, tastes and emotion which they can use to manipulate us into buying things or seeing ads that match what we like.

Facebook has even experimented with altering levels of positive or negative content in news feeds to assess the impact on people’s emotions!

Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the risk of privacy invasion is high.

With 500 million new tweets per day on Twitter alone, businesses now have a direct pipeline into our emotions.

And this opens up a whole new landscape for them to exploit when trying to market their products.

Wrap Up

The Happiness Industry by William Davies offers an in-depth look at how corporate power is exploiting emotions and manipulating people’s feelings of happiness to increase productivity and encourage more consumerism.

Davies encourages readers to trust their own subjective feelings of happiness, instead of relying on measurements from large corporations.

This book provides an interesting and thought-provoking take on the topic of happiness, and serves as a reminder that it’s important to remember our own inner joy instead of trying to find it through material possessions or external validation.

By trusting your own emotions, you can learn what brings you true happiness and make choices that lead towards feeling more contentment in your life.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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