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Books for changing the world
The Politics of Pleasure

Efforts to green the economy and distribute wealth more equitably often sound like a program for joyless lives: make do with less and give up your pleasures. To philosopher Kate Soper, this gets it all wrong. Leading this issue’s forum, she urges that we see “post-growth living” as an opportunity for greater pleasure, not less. A simpler life of “alternative hedonism”—built around local community and abun­dant free time—could make us happier and healthier while giving our overextended planet a new lease on life. Forum respondents, including Green New Deal economist Robert Pollin and Kenyan activist Nanjala Nyabola, embrace Soper’s call to remake society but question her prescription. The result is a wide-ranging debate about the limitations of lifestyle critique, the value of economic growth, and the kinds of alternatives that are possible.

Other contributions focus on the connections between pleasure and gender, including the joys of collective action and care work, the ordinary pleasures of Black motherhood, the misogyny of Pos­itive Psychology, and the links between good sex and democracy. Together they imagine what it will take to make a pleasurable life possible for everyone.