Book Review to Tibor Scitovsky - 'The Joyless Economy' (1976)

Aggiornamenti Sociali, Vol. 1, pp.69-71, January 2008

3 Pages Posted: 1 Feb 2008


Tibor Scitovsky has struggled over the years to give us a precise definition of quality, but it has generally been related to joy in consumption. His book THE JOYLESS ECONOMY (1976), remains a major critique of modern and especially economic values. Based on Happiness Paradox, in this essay, the author advised that we should spend our money on things that we will not adapt to (stimulation good or relational good, such a beautiful scenery or meeting good friends - things that can continually fascinate us and provide a degree of fulfillment) rather than wasting our time and money buying things which we get adapted to (comfort good, such as a newer and fancier-looking sofa, etc. - the pleasure of which is temporary and fades with time). Certain types of consumption, he argues in this essay, are joyless, others joyful and the difference between them is a composite of several things of which challenge, risk and a sense of accomplishment would be major factors. Scitovsky has extended his ideas into social critique: specialization has taken much of the joy out of work, he has argued, and consumption in American way-of-life society (more than any other) has placed far too great a stress on comfort and safety in consumption and living, thereby depriving consumption activities of their challenging, risky and difficult elements, i.e. joy. The cure for a joyless society, Scitovsky maintains, is to educate our consumption so as to infuse it with those joyful elements. While Scitovsky's arguments may seem daring, he stands in good company: Thorstein Veblen, John Kenneth Galbraith and Robert Frank are but a handful of the many other prominent economists who stress the need to think carefully about the qualitative aspects of economic progress.

Keywords: Tibor Scitovsky, Happiness and Economics, Ethics in Economics, Stimulation Goods, Comfort Goods, Happiness Paradox

JEL Classification: A11, A12, B19, B40, D11, Z10

Suggested Citation

Reggiani, Tommaso, Book Review to Tibor Scitovsky - 'The Joyless Economy' (1976). Aggiornamenti Sociali, Vol. 1, pp.69-71, January 2008, Available at SSRN:

Tommaso Reggiani (Contact Author)

Masaryk University ( email )

Zerotinovo nam. 9
60177 Brno, 603 00
Czech Republic

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