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Happiness and Well-Being in an Age of Austerity: The Existential Dilemma Social Science in the City Dr Graham Taylor Associate Professor in Sociology Department.

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Presentation on theme: "Happiness and Well-Being in an Age of Austerity: The Existential Dilemma Social Science in the City Dr Graham Taylor Associate Professor in Sociology Department."— Presentation transcript:

1 Happiness and Well-Being in an Age of Austerity: The Existential Dilemma Social Science in the City Dr Graham Taylor Associate Professor in Sociology Department of Health and Applied Social Sciences

2 Happiness and Well-Being in an Age of Austerity: The Existential Dilemma What is Happiness and Well-Being? Well-Being at Work The Limits of Well-Being: Public Service Reform and Restructuring The Existential Dilemma

3 The Elusive Search for Happiness Michael Frayn – A Landing on the Sun –A British prime minister tasks his advisers with looking into happiness and what the government could do to promote it. The prize proved elusive, the adviser went mad and died.

4 Gross National Happiness? Kingdom of Bhutan –Balance between material and non-material and social and spiritual needs OECD: Work of Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen highlight limits of Gross National Income and search for alternatives.

5 David Cameron It's time we admitted that there's more to life than money and it's time we focused not just on GDP but on GWB – general wellbeing. Wellbeing can't be measured by money or traded in markets. It's about the beauty of our surroundings, the quality of our culture and, above all, the strength of our relationships. Improving our society's sense of wellbeing is, I believe, the central political challenge of our times."

6 Is Britain Happy? 2011 ONS Survey 4,200 British adults carried out between April and August 2011 life-satisfaction at 7.4 out of 10 financial situation, work and work-life balance situation rated at 6.2, 6.7 and 6.4 respectively Britons still happy despite financial woes, survey finds

7 Can we really measure Happiness and Well-Being? Nicolas Sarkozy: the measuring of happiness a priority. Social Portrait of France (2010). Detailed chapter on methodologies for measuring well-being Stéfan Lollivier, director of social studies at Insee –You can't measure happiness, it's impossible, people don't have the same preferences for what makes them happy. But you can measure the fraction of people who are dissatisfied, who think they are unhappy, and the proportion of people who are missing out on happiness or feel excluded from it."

8 Well-Being: Intellectual Traditions Hedonic Psychology Happiness Positive Emotions –Presence of positive mood –Absence of negative mood –Satisfaction with various domains of life (e.g. work, leisure) –Global life satisfaction

9 Well-Being: Intellectual Traditions Eudaimonic well-being Aristotle Human Flourishing Contemporary Psychology –Autonomy –Personal growth –Self-acceptance –Purpose in life –Environmental mastery –Positive relations with others.

10 Well-Being: Intellectual Traditions Objective Well-Being Functioning of Human Capacities Amartya Sen Well-Being as Substantive Freedom –live to old age –engage in economic transactions –participate in political activities

11 The Benefits of Well-Being at Work? Organizations: –higher productivity –customer satisfaction –organizational citizenship Individuals: –Income –Relationships –health Government: –Public spending on welfare and NHS

12 Well-Being at Work: Measurement and Improvement Combine hedonic and eudaimonic aspects of well- being ASSET –Control and Autonomy –Work (over)Load –Productivity –Psychological (Ill) Health

13 But What is Well-Being at Work? For most people, their work is a key determinant of self-worth, family esteem, identity and standing within the community, besides of course, material progress and a means of social participation and progress (Dame Carol Black, Working for a Healthier Tomorrow 2008: 4).

14 But What is Well-Being at Work? A dynamic state in which the individual is able to develop their potential, work productively and creatively, build strong and positive relationships with others and contribute to their community. It is enhanced when an individual is able to fulfil their personal and social goals and achieve a sense of purpose in society (Mental Capital and Wellbeing, Foresight, 2008).

15 But What is Well-Being at Work? Psychological and Sociological Components Self (determined) identity in a social context The absence of sociological perspectives on happiness and well-being. Neo-liberalism, Workplace Restructuring and Existential Insecurity (Zygmunt Bauman)

16 Case Study: Public Service Professionals Identity: Caring, duty, empathy. Ending Contradiction: Existential Insecurity Restructuring and Austerity: A Threat to Existential Well-Being?

17 Public Service Cuts and Restructuring 1970s: Rationalization and Reorganization 1980s: Privatization and Marketization 1990s: New Public Manangement 2000s: Austerity and Cuts

18 Impact on Public Service Identities Public service ethos marginalized by a logic of economic rationalization that subsumes diverse practices within a process of rationalized market-based calculability (Du Gay, 1994). Decreasing Scope for critical reflexivity New divisions based on caring and entrepreneurial values.

19 Self-Identity and Public Service Public service identity: Search for meaning in organizations where there were important limits on the extent to which public service labour could be rationalized Public Service Work: Variable, socially-responsive and reflexive and based on the conceptualization and amelioration of social problems. Welfare professionals: Self-selective into occupations on the basis of pre-existing political beliefs and values that are hostile to corporate capitalism and morally committed to a fairer society. Restructuring: Public and Private redefined and rendered ambiguous

20 The Limits of Well-Being Assumes fixed human essence. Assumes essence can be satisfied by external conditions manipulated by government or employers. Ahistorical and Apolitical conception of subjectivity (power) Subjectivity and subjective well- being as emergent, dynamic and (potentially) transformative.

21 Re-Centring the Human Subject Sociological Turns –Cultural –Global –Complexity –De-humanization Existential Turn? –Re-Centring –Re-humanization

22 Why Sartre? Man…. first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world and defines himself afterwards… Man is nothing else but that which he makes of himself (Existentialism is a Humanism) Jean-Paul Sartre ( )

23 Why Sartre? Existence precedes essence Freedom We are condemned to be free Responsibility Authenticity

24 Being and Nothingness Being-in-itself Being-for-itself Gap = Nothingness = Freedom Being-for-others > Bad faith

25 Bad Faith Objectification Individuals impose limits on own freedom in interaction with others Bad faith > Flight from anguish

26 Public Service as Bad Faith Freedom – Ability to conceptualize beyond time and space and imagine alternatives Public Service: (Limited) Alternative to Commodification and Rationalization –Reflexive work based on empathy, discretion and tacit knowledge (Claus Offe). –Emotional Labour Between public/private = inbetweenness, liminality or stickiness (Self-)Responsiblity for austerity and cuts?

27 Existential Well-Being? Responsibility – Well-being or Self and Others Well-Being as Freedom Resistance to Objectification (particularly objectively defined notions of happiness and well- being)


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