Why We Are Restless: On the Modern Quest for Contentment
By Benjamin Storey and Jenna Silber Storey
JMC fellow Benjamin Storey has recently co-written a book with Jenna Silber Storey, Why We Are Restless: On the Modern Quest for Contentment:
We live in an age of unprecedented prosperity, yet everywhere we see signs that our pursuit of happiness has proven fruitless. Dissatisfied, we seek change for the sake of change—even if it means undermining the foundations of our common life. In Why We Are Restless, Benjamin and Jenna Storey offer a profound and beautiful reflection on the roots of this malaise and examine how we might begin to cure ourselves.
Drawing on the insights of Montaigne, Pascal, Rousseau, and Tocqueville, Why We Are Restless explores the modern vision of happiness that leads us on, and the disquiet that follows it like a lengthening shadow. In the sixteenth century, Montaigne articulated an original vision of human life that inspired people to see themselves as individuals dedicated to seeking contentment in the here and now, but Pascal argued that we cannot find happiness through pleasant self-seeking, only anguished God-seeking. Rousseau later tried and failed to rescue Montaigne’s worldliness from Pascal’s attack. Steeped in these debates, Tocqueville visited the United States in 1831 and, observing a people “restless in the midst of their well-being,” discovered what happens when an entire nation seeks worldly contentment—and finds mostly discontent.
Arguing that the philosophy we have inherited, despite pretending to let us live as we please, produces remarkably homogenous and unhappy lives, Why We Are Restless makes the case that finding true contentment requires rethinking our most basic assumptions about happiness.
The Political Theory Review: Why We Are Restless: Author Interview with Benjamin and Jenna Storey
Jeffrey Church at The Political Theory Review recently hosted a conversation with Benjamin and Jenna Storey about their book, Why We Are Restless (Princeton University Press, 2021).
Benjamin Storey is the Jane Gage Hipp Professor in European and American Political Thought, Politics and International Affairs and Director of the Tocqueville Program at Furman University. He is winner of the 2016 Alester G. and Janie Earle Furman, Jr. Award for Excellence in Teaching as well as the 2011 Francis Bonner “American Scholar” Award, presented by Furman’s Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. In 2016-17, Storey was a Visiting Fellow at the James Madison Program at Princeton University. His writings have appeared in the Journal of Politics, the Review of Politics, The New Atlantis, City Journal, and many other venues.
Professor Storey is a JMC fellow.
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