The psychopolitical economy and the economy of happiness: consumption, hapiness, concentration of income and devastation of nature

The Happiness Economy also analyzes the role of consumption in people’s satisfaction. As Frey (2008) reminds us, money is valued for the status it generates, mainly because it allows the acquisition of more material goods and services. However, several concepts in psychology challenge the idea that more consumption generates more well-being. For Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman (2012), the concept of “focusing illusion” is such an important scientific concept that it should be widely popularized.

Source: Student from a government school run by the Government of Delhi defining “happiness” in Happiness Class, part of the Happiness Curriculum. Government of NCT of Delhi , 2021.

Also known as “focalism” (focalism), this concept refers to a cognitive bias that occurs when too much attention is paid to a single aspect of a situation, generating a wrong prediction about future well-being. An example of this aspect would be the satisfaction obtained with the consumption of a material good and, more broadly, the satisfaction of an individual with his life. The illusion of focus would be one of the causes of what Wilson and Gilbert (2003) call “affective forecasting error”, which occurs when individuals make mistakes when imagining their future emotional state –mental state, Ouriques would say – and that can result in bad choices or decisions (miswanting, in the term created by Wilson and Gilbert).

Such concepts would explain why the consumption of various material goods does not necessarily raise levels of happiness: individuals overestimate the importance that the acquisition of material goods, for example, the car of the year, will have on their well-being. In this sense, André Lara Resende, in an interview with the State of São Paulo (2014), criticized the emphasis given to this consumption: “it no longer makes sense to associate development exclusively with growth and increase in material consumption”. The economist considers that, once a certain level of income is exceeded, “the quality of life is no longer necessarily associated with material consumption”.

For him, public policies must be revised in order to achieve well-being. This review does not imply the choice for less growth, but for “change in the composition of the product, an increase in the weight of services – more entertainment, more sport, more education, more health, more music”, concluding that the service sector industries will lead growth in the future.

In a complementary way, Psychopolitical Economics warns of the harmful consequences arising from the pattern of income concentration, shed light on environmental costs. On the concentration of income, it shows, according to the global wealth report, Global Wealth Databook2015 of Banco Credit Suisse, that 2015 will be remembered as the first year of the historical series in which the wealth of 1% of the world population reached half of the total value of assets.

In other words, as it demonstrates: 1% of the world’s population, those who have an equity valued at $760,000 (2.96 million reais), have as much liquid and invested money as the remaining 99% of the world’s population. This huge disparity between the privileged and the rest of humanity, far from narrowing, has continued to widen since the beginning of the Great Recession in 2008. The Credit Suisse statistic, one of the most reliable, leaves only one possible reading: the rich will emerge from the crisis by being richer, both in absolute and relative terms, and the poor, relatively poorer.

In the article by Ouriques (2014) entitled “About Psychopolitical Economics”, the author reports several datasets that demonstrate environmental degradation correlated to several other indicators such as average temperature indices in the northern hemisphere, population, CO2 concentration, GDP, loss of tropical forests and forests, species extinction, number of cars, water use, paper consumption, fish exploitation, ozone loss and foreign investment. Apart from all these indices, Ouriques also compares the ecological footprint and biocapacity indices of the main industrialized countries, such as the USA, which maintain their production and consumption patterns, obtaining the necessary biocapacity by withdrawing it from other countries.

Less and less natural resources and a dismal future corresponding to that of friendly countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia, whose overcoming depends on the social sciences advancing based on a new episteme that brings the political economy closer to the psychic economy in such a way that it is possible to understand the phenomenon of irrationality, of the emotional forces that obscure cognition and volition, because as Mattelart said in 2003, today political freedom can no longer be just the exercise of one’s own will but must necessarily go through the domain of the process of formation of the will (OURIQUES, 2014, p. 37). Therefore, the contribution of Psychopolitical Economics is to propose, through knowledge of psychopolitics, a way to emancipate mental states from servitude regimes.

It is from the knowledge of how the Hobbesian axiom, and the corresponding financialization of the world, install themselves and are sustained in mental territories, that is, in the flows of thoughts, affections, perceptions and volition, that one can build epistemic, theoretical and methodologically, and in a network, emancipation in such environments of oppression and colonization of mental territories (OURIQUES, 2009).

It is in this sense that it is possible to align the foundations of the Psychopolitical Economy with those of the Economy of Happiness. Both walk towards non-hegemonic epistemologies, each one using diagnoses promoted by the analysis of empirical data and other objective findings about the real social, economic, political and environmental conditions in which one lives.


OURIQUES, Evandro Vieira. Território Mental: o nó górdio da democracia. Democracia Viva, n. 42, pp. 76-81, maio/2009.

OURIQUES, Evandro Vieira. Epistemologías pré-hispánicas de América Latina y cambio psicosocial: el caso de los conceptos Derecho a la Comunicación y Desarrollo Mediático. in Revista Folios24, Abril, 2011. Universidad de Antioquia: Colombia.

OURIQUES, Evandro Vieira. Sobre a Economia Psicopolítica. Ofícios Terrestres, n. 31, pp. 30-48, julho/dezembro, 2014.

OURIQUES, Evandro Vieira. A psicopolítica como renovação da teoria social e da filosofia. In: ROJAS, Carlos Del.Valle; ECHETO, Víctor Silva. (Eds.). Crisis, comunicación y crítica política. Quito: Ciespal, 2017a. Cap. 3, pp. 310-341.

OURIQUES, Evandro Vieira. Teoria psicopolítica: emancipação dos Aparelhos Psicopolíticos da Cultura. Colección Teoría Psicopolítica. Volumen I. Co-edición Universidad de La Frontera, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Universidad Nacional de La Plata, Universidade do Porto y Universidad de Groningen, 2017b.

WILSON, Timothy D.; GILBERT, Daniel T. Affective Forecasting. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, v. 35, p. 345-411, 2003.

FREY, Bruno S. Happiness: A Revolution in Economics. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA and London, UK, 2008, 240 p.KAHNEMAN, Daniel. Rápido e Devagar: duas formas de pensar. Tradução: Cássio de Arantes Leite. Rio de Janiro: Objetiva, 2012.

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