Robert Lane is a seasoned critic of American consumer society. His latest book summarizes many of the arguments brought up earlier and contributes new data about developments in income, companionship and happiness in the USA between 1972 and 1994. Lane notes a considerable rise in incomes over these years and claims that companionship and happiness have declined. He attributes this decline to market forces that emphasize money at the expense of intimate bonds, resulting in a weakened capacity to deal with stress.This review challenges two of the book's hypotheses. First, it shows that happiness did not decline in the USA in these years, but was actually quite stable. Second, it mitigates the assertion that companionship has dwindled and notes that money making and companionship are not necessarily antithetical.Still, Lane could be right. Possibly market forces did depress happiness and possibly that loss was offset by improvements in other fields, like increased freedom or better health care, such as better treatment for mental problems. If so, Lane's message is that Americans could have been happier than they ultimately were.

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Journal of Happiness Studies
Department of Sociology

Ott, J. C. (2001). Did the Market Depress Happiness in the US?. Journal of Happiness Studies, 2(4), 433–443. doi:10.1023/A:1013976912275