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Possessed Reviews

Possessed by Bruce Hood

Possessed: Why We Want More Than We Need

Bruce Hood

Score pending

1 review

Imprint: Allen Lane
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Publication date: 29 Aug 2019
ISBN: 9780241409954
2 stars out of 5
Steven Poole
17 Aug 2019

"[a] colourful study"

Possessed’s political argument is the familiar one that, in an age of global heating, we need to get off the hedonic treadmill of shopping-led overproduction. Unhelpfully, though, it conflates the acquisition of objects with wealth (not every comfortably-off person is a hoarder), and fails to distinguish between classes of object that it might be more or less admirable to purchase... Laudably, Hood does cite evidence even where it undermines his general argument. The lately fashionable theory that buying experiences, such as holidays or restaurant meals, makes people happier than buying things is, he shows, true only for the relatively rich: poor people are happier with more stuff. Other evidence suggests that “owning luxury goods produces a sense of well-being”, and general “life satisfaction” does reliably increase with wealth. Hood takes pains to distinguish such satisfaction from happiness, which is a term he uses uncritically until the very end of the book, when he suddenly (and rightly) declares that modern society’s focus on happiness – a fleeting and contingent emotion – is misplaced anyway.