Hijacking the language of functionality? In praise of ʼnegative’ emotions against happiness

Edgar Cabanas, Eva Illouz

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Positive psychologists have spread the assumption that positive emotions stand both as cause and effect for adaptive and functional “psyches”, whereas negative emotions would stand for the opposite. From this perspective, positive emotions would advance active citizens, productive workers, and healthy and flourishing individuals, whereas negative emotions would produce maladaptive, dysfunctional, and unproductive beings. This chapter argues that based on a fallacious dichotomy between positivity and negativity, positive psychology has established a new emotional hierarchy to redefine what means to perform within social and psychological standards of health and normality. The chapter first analyzes positive psychology’s approach to emotions and their relationship with issues of psychological functioning. The chapter then argues against the fallacious positive-negative dichotomy to which positive psychologists uphold, emphasizing its reductionist and simplistic approach to emotions. Second, the chapter stresses the importance of addressing the relationship between emotions and functionality in sociological, structural, and political terms. Finally, the chapter comments briefly on some of the counterproductive and contradictory consequences that derive from the strong inscription of happiness and the so-called positive emotions into the very definition of functionality.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationCritical Happiness Studies
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781351397056
ISBN (Print)9781138304437
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 selection and editorial matter, Paolo Gardoni.


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