Daniel Horowitz is the Mary Huggins Gamble Foundation Chair and Professor of American Studies Emeritus at Smith College. He is an historian whose work has focused on the history of consumer culture and social criticism in the United States during the twentieth century. Among his publications are a biography of Betty Friedan and three books on how American and European writers from the 1830s to the late twentieth century wrestled with the consequences of affluence.
In this astonishing work of cultural analysis, Horowitz delves into the shift of focus in psychology from mental illness to happiness. He describes the rise of happiness studies in the 1960s and positive psychology in the 1990s. Martin Seligman was the central figure in the latter movement. "Positive psychology called to me," he remarked in 2001, "just as the burning bush called to Moses."
Positive psychology soon integrated resources and insights from Eastern spiritual traditions, behavioral economics, neuroscience, evolutionary biology, and cognitive psychology. As the cultural scene in America shifted, influenced by Oprah’s television show, TED talks, evangelical ministries, Facebook and social media, and funding from government agencies and private foundations, happiness resources flourished with bestselling books, seminars and retreats on self-improvement, and debate over the connections between the happiness movement and neoliberalism and cultural conservatism.
Horowitz's summaries of the contributions and key insights of the following scholars and psychological practitioners stirred our spirits and helped us to appreciate their work: Martin Seligman (see excerpt), Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Viktor Frankl, John Bowlby, Aaron Beck, Abraham Maslow, Alan Watts, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Herbert Benson, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Barbara Fredrickson, and others.
Other fascinating explorations center around Norman Vincent Peale and the The Power of Positive Thinking, the question as to whether or not money can buy happiness, the pleasure of flow, and better living through relaxation.