Sustainable Hedonism

A Thriving Life That Does Not Cost the Earth

Sustainable Hedonism. A Thriving Life that Does Not Cost the Earth is a 2021 non-fiction book by Austrian-Hungarian social researcher and psychological counsellor Orsolya Lelkes, PhD published by Bristol University Press. The book elaborates on how we can create a thriving life for us all that doesn’t come at the price of ecological destruction.
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.


Orsolya Lelkes has been conducting research on this subject at the London School of Economics and at the European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research in Vienna for over 20 years. She has been also working as psychological counsellor and certified coach supporting groups and individuals in their transformations for a flourishing life. The book is an integration of many scientific fields, including psychology, social psychology, behavioural economics, critical social theory, philosophy, as well as practices and insights from her practical transformative work.


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
Interested in finding out more? For more detail, see the brief description of each chapter: Contents overview .


“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

Book reviews

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)

Podcasts and media

Sustainable Hedonism: Paradox or Pathway?” Blogpost for the degrowth platform.
Economics for Rebels podcast of the European Society for Ecological Economics, Nov 2021, 32 mins In Hungarian: Zöld Egyenlőség podcast
Fenntartható hedonizmus
“After COVID-19: A time for conscious hedonism?”  Blog post of the Transforming Society blog of Policy Press
After COVID-19: A time for conscious hedonism?

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