The Question of Morale

Managing Happiness and Unhappiness in University Life

David Watson,

The Question of Morale: Managing Happiness and Unhappiness in University Life
 
 
There is a comforting tale that heads of higher education institutions (HEIs) like to tell each other. "Go around your university or college," they say, "and ask the first ten people who you meet how their morale is. The response will always be 'rock-bottom.' Then ask them what they are working on. The responses will be full of life, of optimism and of enthusiasm for the task in hand." The moral of the story is that the two sets of responses don't compute; that the first is somehow unthinking and ideological, and the second unguarded and sincere. The thesis of this book is that the contradictory answers may well compute more effectively than is acknowledged: that the culture of higher education and the mesh of psychological contracts, or "deals," that make it up make much of the current discourse about happiness and unhappiness in contemporary life look simplistic and banal. In particular, the much-vaunted "science of happiness" may not have much to say to us. There is also a potential link between the Manichean discourse about morale and our wider culture's approach to happiness. Both normally deal in extremes, and much more rarely in graduations.


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