Sustainable Hedonism

A Thriving Life That Does Not Cost the Earth

How can we create a thriving life for us all that doesn’t come at the price of ecological destruction?

This book calls to explore our collective and personal convictions about success and good life. It challenges the mainstream worldview, rooted in economics, that equates happiness with pleasure, and encourages greed, materialism, egoism and disconnection.

Drawing on science and ancient Greek philosophers the author details how we can cultivate our skills for enjoying life without harming ourselves or others, and can live an autonomous, creative and connected life. Complementary to our intellectual understanding, the experiential method of role play and theatre can powerfully facilitate the exploration of the inner drivers and hindrances of a thriving life.


Introduction: Is There Anyone Who Does Not Want to Thrive?

PART I: The Challenge
1 Unintended Consequences of Economics as a Science
2 The Narrative of Success in Capitalism, and Its Failures

PART II: What Is a Good Life?
3 Pleasure, Joy, Satisfaction, Purpose: Refining Our Quest for Happiness
4 Sustainable Hedonism
5 A Flourishing Life: Living Well and Doing Well
6 Values in an Era of Free Choice

PART III: How Do We Get There?
7 The Laboratory of the Flourishing Life: Serious Change Can Be Playful
8 Inner Agents and Saboteurs of the Good Life: Role Theory

Conclusions: Flourishing Life in the World


“Orsolya Lelkes’ ideas for progress advance both the survival of the planet and thriving communities and thriving personal lives.”

Professor Anne Power, Head of LSE Housing and Communities, London School of Economics, Author of „Cities for a Small Continent: International Handbook of City Recovery

„Highly topical and timely. This work brings together key economic and philosophical literatures with a distinctive practical approach.”

Sir Professor John Hills, London School of Economics and Political Science (1954-2020)

“Not only does the book bring together three strands (environmental, social, individual) but it also aims to do so in a novel and accessible way – not just outlining the theory, but also encouraging a process of self-reflection and experiential learning.”

Sam Wren-Lewis, University of Nottingham, Author of „The Happiness Problem“

“Beyond the empty, sterile promises of consumerism, there is a place rich in meaningful engagement with ourselves, others and the more than human world. A rediscovery of our bodies – specifically in the form of theatre and role-play – provides a powerful channel for this re-awakening. This is the territory that Orsolya Lelkes so skilfully and powerfully explores, helping us to re-engage with the power of embodiment.”

Jonathan Dawson, Head of Economics, Schumacher College

„We all want to be doing well in their lives, but are we going about it in the right way? In this impassioned book, Orsolya Lelkes argues that some of our desires and habits sabotage both our own quest for happiness and the well-being of society. However, change is possible, and the many aspects of well-being that money cannot buy can be reached by a better understanding of our relationships with ourselves and others. In a post-pandemic world where individuals and societies are re-evaluating their priorities, the message that sustainable well-being is attainable without consumerism will resonate with many.“

    Prof. Andrew Clark, Paris School of Economics, co-author of The Origins of Happiness

Book reviews

„Unterm Strich bleibt so ein äußerst spannendes, interdisziplinäres Buch, das zwar auf  philosophischen Schulen und Forschungstraditionen zum Thema Nachhaltigkeit und Lebenszufriedenheit aufbaut, aber in verschiedener Hinsicht mit ihnen bricht. Ein in den Sozialwissenschaften ziemlich neuartiger Ansatz sowie neuartige Methodik. Dabei widersteht Lelkes der Versuchung einen Degrow-your-life Ratgeber zu verfassen. In Form und Sprache dürfte das Buch aber durchaus ein breites Publikum aus den Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaften ansprechen.“

Nick von Andrian, Postwachstum blog


The book is an interdisciplinary masterpiece that, while it builds upon the schools of philosophy and research traditions related to sustainability, it also breaks with them with its rather novel approach and unique methodology.“

András Báló, doctoral researcher in the Kovász Slow Journal of the Budapest Corvinus University (See the full text in Hungarian)

Order your copy at Bristol University Press,, or at your local bookstore!

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