Happiness is a contested idea, and it is this that this book seeks to explore, via a sociological analysis of a range of lay accounts surrounding the issue. However, before these accounts are presented and examined, the scene must be set. This chapter thus delineates a number of scholarly debates within which this book, and the study on which it is based, can be framed. As highlighted in the book’s Introduction, there exists a relative paucity of sociological work on happiness. That which has been undertaken tends either to focus mainly upon its measurement and determinants, rather than what it is understood to be, which is the focus of this book, or simply regards happiness as an outcome of other social phenomena (such as relationships or work) without necessarily examining it in detail. This, on the one hand, poses a problem as far as this book is concerned, as it cannot be easily placed within an existing academic context. However, on the other hand, it paves the way for this book to act as a pioneering work on the study of lay perceptions and understandings of happiness. I shall therefore demonstrate how ideas presented in this book complement those that are already known in both sociology and beyond, and how they can address and begin to fill this lacuna that has hitherto been overlooked. That is, if happiness is something that can be measured, as many debates suggest, then how is it initially experienced and brought about?
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