Reconsidering happiness in the context of social justice education


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That happiness leads to lack of harm and suffering, representing both a good and a means to good, is promoted, for example, by educational philosophers such as Nel Noddings. But happiness should not be seen as an unproblematic goal, for education or otherwise. In this article, we critically investigate the importance of happiness in the educational context. More specifically, we emphasize the necessity of problematizing happiness as an emotional practice in social justice education. In order to contextualize our analysis, we enumerate two theoretical perspectives that endorse happiness in education. These are the educational philosophy of Noddings and the paradigm of positive psychology. After exploring how happiness is promoted theoretically and practically, we elaborate a critical perspective on happiness in relation to education. We use the work of Sara Ahmed, among others, to illustrate some ways in which happiness can function to serve unjust relations in education. We thus explore happiness as an intersubjective affect, as opposed to considering it as an intrasubjective feeling. We argue that educators who want to foster social justice in education need to consider the positive and the negative consequences of encouraging happiness in education. Fostering happiness can be progressive and empowering, but it can also be regressive and unjust. Copyright © 2018 Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-229
Issue number2
Early online date08 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - May 2018


Jackson, L., & Bingham, C. (2018). Reconsidering happiness in the context of social justice education. Interchange, 49(2), 217-229. doi: 10.1007/s10780-018-9323-8


  • Happiness
  • Social justice
  • Positive psychology
  • Inequity
  • Education


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