Happiness and its pursuit have been a constant source of fascination and attraction for thousands of years. In ancient Greek tragedy, happiness was considered a gift of the gods, now we consider it a right. Why did this change and what does it tell us about our society?
In The Pursuit of Happiness, cultural historian Darrin McMahon offers a brilliant summation of the history of happiness, and its evolution from divine gift to natural human entitlement. Central to the development of Christianity, ideas of happiness assumed their modern form during the Enlightenment, and McMahon follows this development through to the present day, showing how our modern quest for the 'holy grail' of happiness continues to generate new forms of pleasure, but also, paradoxically, new forms of pain. Perfect happiness may exist only in our minds, but McMahon helps us discover that as for Cervantes' knight of sad countenance, Quixote, to travel is better than to arrive.