The introduction to this collection offers an outline of the actors, institutions and processes that have contributed to the increasingly pervasive sense that we ought to be happy. We ask, Why happiness? Why now? We invite researchers to take the problem of happiness seriously. It is a matter of great – yet ordinary – human concern. We contextualise contemporary claims by examining historical precursors to the happiness turn. It traces the current preoccupation with happiness to the development of therapeutic and self-help culture and raise questions about the instrumental and political nature of individualised framings of emotions. We also note the dangers and risks inherent in these processes. A critical happiness studies, we argue, demands that researchers interrogate the ways in which happiness is presented as a socially and political supported possibility that is individually pursuable and simultaneously, a demand and necessity. It is important, however, that critical work considers the role that happiness plays in human lives. It is in this spirit that the essay calls for the establishment of a critical happiness studies. This should not be understood as a call to arms, but rather an invitation to critique and to contribute to more caring and collective conceptualisations of happiness.