Does activism make you happy?

Flickr photo by Matthew Bradley

Flickr photo by Matthew Bradley

I’m quoted in the Boston Globe’s Ideas Section in “The Upside of ‘down with’” (Drake Bennett, 10/11/09).

The article reports on a forthcoming study “Some Benefits of Being an Activist” by Tim Kasser and Malte Klar that activism is associated with happiness (2009, Political Psychology 30(5) ).

The Globe article neglected to quote me that there are lots of reason to support activism — it may increase people’s confidence in making a difference, it may improve governmental quality and leaders’ accountability, it may spark extra-governmental change or reveal the immorality of laws (as seen in the Civil Rights Era).

That said, I am skeptical, as the Globe article noted that it is activism per se that is causing happiness, based on our forthcoming religious research.  Religious Americans are more happy, but it has nothing to do with their theology, or what they hear from the pulpit, or a sense of calling.  It is explained by being in a morally-infused social network.  Praying alone or attending a church where you hear the sermons (but don’t make friends) makes you no happier.  Similarly if one looks at research by Alan Krueger and others, it is social activities that bring happiness.

So while I’m not sure that bowlers are doing as much for government accountability as protesters, my guess would be that they are equally happy.

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2 responses to “Does activism make you happy?

  1. If happiness is associated with being in a ‘morally infused’ social network, as you suggest above…

    And if activism involves being part of a morally infused social network as as the Kasser and Klar study above suggests…

    And if happiness is ‘contagious’ as the Fowler and Christakis study (BMJ 2008) suggests…

    And if we all want to be happy…

    Wouldn’t it be good if activism was also contagious?

  2. nice posting Thomas, and lovely comment Jonathan!
    If we wish activism to be contagious, can we not just make it so? Or am I just being idealistic?!

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