Ruut Veenhoven
Paper presented at 16th World Congress of Sociology, Working group 06 Social Indicators, July 23-29 2009, Durban South-Africa

Empirical studies on happiness have found that: a) most people are happy in modern nations, b) average happiness in nations is rising, c) inequality in happiness is going down, d) happiness depends heavily on the kind of society one lives in, but e) not very much on one’s place in society. These remarkable findings are largely ignored in sociology, if not denied. This has several reasons. One reason is professional bias: most sociologists earn their living dealing with social problems are therefore not apt to see that people flourish. Another reason is ideological: many sociologists are ‘critical’ of modern society and can therefore hardly imagine that people thrive in these conditions. Lastly, some sociological theories play them false, in particular cognitive theories implying that happiness is relative. These theories and the evidence against them are discussed in this paper.

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