Ethical Inquiry Lecture:
Happiness is Not for Sale, But You Are:
How the Market Economy Structures the Pursuit of Happiness.
Benjamin Radcliff, Political Science,
University of Notre Dame
Abstract: Our understanding of happiness must be grounded in our understanding of the market economy. A central aspect of capitalism is
the "commodification" of labor and thus the commodification of persons themselves. The material and psychological burden of being "reduced to commodities" compels citizens to attempt to introduce countervailing forces in society that limit the extent of commodification. Across countries, and across the American States, data suggest that the single most important determinant of well-being is indeed the level of decommodification (as expressed through the social safety net, labor unions, and pro-worker labor market protections, such as the minimum wage). The magnitude of the relationship between decommodification and happiness dwarfs conventional individual-level factors, such as marital status or unemployment.
Reception to follow in the lobby of Smith-Buonanno Hall.