In the UK there's recently been a lot of talk about "happiness", the fact that there is significant levels of personal and social malaise around, and the need for greater provision of therapists. As a counter to this, Paul Moloney, a psychologist, argues in the Guardian that what makes us most miserable is poverty and work. His opinion piece is one of the few decent attempts I've seen to put the unhappiness debate in a more political context. He challenges the mainstream view that 'the causes of psychological distress lie in the way that we see the world, not in the way that it is'.
After pointing out that the rising wave of psychological distress is associated with the widening gap of inequality, Moloney makes the argument that the problem should be seen as a political task:
Far from being an undesirable trait, the ability to feel and give voice to psychic pain may turn out to be an essential asset: one of the few clear signals that all is not well with our world. We need to develop a greater ability to help people articulate their distress and make this the first step to making their world a more tolerable place.
Other dissenting voices on the happiness issue can be read at Spiked-Online, such as: Who's happiest: Denmark or Vanuatu?; Measuring happiness: a fool's errand; Why the 'politics of happiness' makes me mad; and Why has happiness become a matter for public policy?