Bruckner subtitles his essay in City Journal: The Western cult of happiness is a mirthless enterprise. It's a short history of the idea of "happiness." One quote:
What is needed is a renewed humility. We are not the masters of the sources of happiness; they ever elude the appointments we make with them, springing up when we least expect them and fleeing when we would hold them close. The excessive ambition to expunge all that is weak or broken in body or mind, to control moods and states of soul, sadness, chagrin, moments of emptiness—all this runs up against our finitude, against the inertia of the human species, which we cannot manipulate like some raw material. We have the power to avoid or to heal certain evils, yes, but we cannot order happiness as if it were a meal in a restaurant.
The Western cult of happiness is indeed a strange adventure, something like a collective intoxication. In the guise of emancipation, it transforms a high ideal into its opposite. Condemned to joy, we must be happy or lose all standing in society. It is not a question of knowing whether we are more or less happy than our ancestors; our conception of the thing itself has changed, and we are probably the first society in history to make people unhappy for not being happy.
Readers know that, much as I value whatever joy and contentment come my way, I find "happiness" difficult to define and, furthermore, do not view it as a particularly meaningful or important goal of life as if is often defined. For example, if performing painful or sacrificial duties is what is satisfying to you, then how can you construct a universal definition of "happiness" when the word may mean "ease and comfort" to another person?