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


  • Reggiani, Tommaso


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.

Suggested Citation

  • Reggiani, Tommaso, 2008. "Book Review to Tibor Scitovsky - "The Joyless Economy" (1976)," MPRA Paper 6959, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:6959

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Booth, Alison L & Chatterji, Monojit, 1998. "Unions and Efficient Training," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 108(447), pages 328-343, March.
    2. Cahuc, Pierre & Michel, Philippe, 1996. "Minimum wage unemployment and growth," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 40(7), pages 1463-1482, August.
    3. Derek Laing & Theodore Palivos & Ping Wang, 1995. "Learning, Matching and Growth," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 62(1), pages 115-129.
    4. Burdett, Ken & Smith, Eric, 2002. "The low skill trap," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 46(8), pages 1439-1451, September.
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    More about this item


    Tibor Scitovsky; Happiness and Economics; Ethics in Economics; Stimulation Goods; Comfort Goods; Happiness Paradox;

    JEL classification:

    • D11 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Theory
    • Z10 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - General
    • B50 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - General
    • B00 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - General - - - History of Economic Thought, Methodology, and Heterodox Approaches
    • Y30 - Miscellaneous Categories - - Book Reviews - - - Book Reviews


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