Religion and social identities, it is argued, are powerful sources of life satisfaction in traditional societies but gradually fade away in the process of modernization. Yet scientific and economic progress enables advanced societies to compensate for the drain of the traditional sources of happiness. In accordance with the argument a strong positive correlation between life satisfaction and economic development is observed in European societies. The citizens in the economically advanced but secular Scandinavian countries, for instance, are more satisfied with life than people in very religious countries. The same relationship apparently does not hold in Asia. Life satisfaction in the economically advanced societies like South Korea or Japan is relatively low. Even worse, we witness a considerable decline of Japanese life satisfaction in recent years. These apparently contradictory findings give rise to a deeper examination of the economic, social, cultural, and psychological determinants of life satisfaction. As a result a coherent interpretation of the Asian and European findings will be presented.
Wolfgang Jagodzinski is Professor of Sociology and Empirical Social Research at the University of Cologne. He took degrees in Law and Political Science and holds a Ph.D. in Political Science. He was Professor at the Universities of Bremen and Gießen, Director of the Central Archive in Cologne and President of GESIS which under his presidency became the largest Institute for the Social Science Infrastructure in Europe. He was involved in several international survey programs and is presently a member of the executive board of the European Values Surveys. He was visiting professor in Japan and the USA and has taught in numerous international Post Graduate Programs. In addition to several books, he has published articles among others in American Political Science Review and Sociological Methods and Research. His present research focuses on cross-cultural comparisons.