Presentation on theme: "Dr Graham Taylor Associate Professor in Sociology"— Presentation transcript:
1Happiness and Well-Being in an Age of Austerity: The Existential Dilemma Social Science in the City™ Dr Graham TaylorAssociate Professor in SociologyDepartment of Health and Applied Social Sciences
2What is Happiness and Well-Being? Well-Being at Work Happiness and Well-Being in an Age of Austerity: The Existential DilemmaWhat is Happiness and Well-Being?Well-Being at WorkThe Limits of Well-Being: Public Service Reform and RestructuringThe Existential Dilemma
3The Elusive Search for Happiness Michael Frayn – A Landing on the SunA 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.
4Gross National Happiness? Kingdom of BhutanBalance between material and non-material and social and spiritual needsOECD: Work of Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen highlight limits of ‘Gross National Income’ and search for alternatives.The term "gross national happiness" was coined in 1972 by Bhutan's then King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, who has opened Bhutan to the age of modernization, soon after the demise of his father, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk. He used the phrase to signal his commitment to building an economy that would serve Bhutan's unique culture based on Buddhist spiritual values.
5David 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."The UK Government, for example, has become increasingly concerned with how ‘well-being’ can provide an index of subjective national prosperity alongside objective measures such as GDP. Despite the context of austerity and public service cuts, David Cameron launched his well-being enquiry in November 2010
6Is Britain Happy? 2011 ONS Survey Britons still happy despite financial woes, survey findsIs Britain Happy?2011 ONS Survey4,200 British adults carried out between April and August 2011life-satisfaction at 7.4 out of 10financial situation, work and work-life balance situation rated at 6.2, 6.7 and 6.4 respectivelyDespite the recession, it appears that most people in Britain are happy. A recent survey of 4,200 British adults carried out between April and August 2011 by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that on average people rated their level of life-satisfaction at 7.4 out of 10. This compared well internationally. The OECD survey showed Denmark with the highest life-satisfaction level of 7.8 but much lower levels of life-satisfaction in nations worst hit by the current recession such as Greece and Spain. The survey appeared to demonstrate that while people had concerns over the precariousness of work and finances these were outweighed by the satisfaction gained from relationships, children and where they lived. What was interesting about the survey was that satisfaction with financial situation, work and work-life balance situation were all lower than overall life-satisfaction: being rated at 6.2, 6.7 and 6.4 respectively. There were also significant numbers of people that rated themselves as feeling anxious. In response to the question: ‘Overall, how anxious did you feel yesterday?’ more than a quarter rated this 5 out of 10 – where 10 was feeling ‘completely anxious’ (The Guardian, 01 Dec, 2011).
7Can 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-beingStéfan 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."In France, Nicolas Sarkozy has made the measuring of happiness a priority and issued a special French report on the topic by Stiglitz and Sen. Despite the recent prominence of the concept, however, there remain fundamental disagreements with regard to how well-being is to be defined and measured. . In 2010, the French National Statistics Office (Insee) devoted a lengthy chapter in the annual Social Portrait of France on methodologies for measuring well-being. The methodology included a range of questions on which well-being was sauid to be related: Do you own at least two pairs of shoes? Can you afford to eat meat every other day? Is your home difficult to heat, damp or too small to have friends round? Do you casually bump into friends? Are you in touch with your family? Do you have unbearably noisy neighbours? Do you vote? However,Stéfan Lollivier, director of social studies at Insee, concluded that it was difficult to measure happiness and well-being and that it was easier to measure unhappiness.
8Well-Being: Intellectual Traditions Hedonic PsychologyHappinessPositive EmotionsPresence of positive moodAbsence of negative moodSatisfaction with various domains of life (e.g. work, leisure)Global life satisfactionHedonic well-being is based on the notion that increased pleasure and decreased pain leads to happiness. Hedonic concepts are based on the notion of subjective well-being. Subjective well-being is a scientific term that is commonly used to denote the ‘happy or good life’. It comprises of an affective component (high positive affect and low negative affect) and a cognitive component (satisfaction with life). It is proposed that an individual experiences happiness when positive affect and satisfaction with life are both high (Carruthers & Hood, 2004).
9Well-Being: Intellectual Traditions Eudaimonic well-beingAristotleHuman FlourishingContemporary PsychologyAutonomyPersonal growthSelf-acceptancePurpose in lifeEnvironmental masteryPositive relations with others.Greek word commonly translated as happiness or welfare; however, "human flourishing" has been proposed as a more accurate translation. Etymologically, it consists of the words "eu" ("good") and "daimōn" (a type of supernatural being).
10Well-Being: Intellectual Traditions Objective Well-BeingFunctioning of Human CapacitiesAmartya SenWell-Being as Substantive Freedomlive to old ageengage in economic transactionsparticipate in political activities
11The Benefits of Well-Being at Work? Organizations:higher productivitycustomer satisfactionorganizational citizenshipIndividuals:IncomeRelationshipshealthGovernment:Public spending on welfare and NHSThese divergent approaches are also evident with regard to the definition and measurement of well-being in the workplace focussed on a range of divergent psychological perspectives from ‘hedonic’ (Warr, 1999) to ‘eudaimonic’ (Locke and Latham, 2002) and attempts to combine these dimensions in recent organizational approaches to workplace well-being such as ASSET (Robertson & Cooper, 2011). The available research suggests that significant benefits accrue to organizations that focus on the positive well-being of their employees including higher productivity, customer satisfaction and organizational citizenship (Donald et al., 2005). There have also been a number of studies that highlight the ways in which well-being at work benefits individual employees in terms of income, relationships and health (Lyubomirsky et al., 2005; Chida & Steptoe, 2008). Within this context, well-being at work has become a priority for government (Black, 2008; Foresight, 2008). Public policy has focussed on how increasing well-being at work can reduce the welfare spending that results from absenteeism and high staff turnover and the burden on the NHS that results from the physical and psychological effects of negative workplace well-being (DoH, 2004; DWP, 2005, 2006). The issue of well-being at work has also been priioritized by employers (IOD, 2006), trade unions, professional associations and other third sector organizations.
12Well-Being at Work: Measurement and Improvement Combine hedonic and eudaimonic aspects of well-beingASSETControl and AutonomyWork (over)LoadProductivityPsychological (Ill) HealthThese divergent approaches are also evident with regard to the definition and measurement of well-being in the workplace focussed on a range of divergent psychological perspectives from ‘hedonic’ (Warr, 1999) to ‘eudaimonic’ (Locke and Latham, 2002) and attempts to combine these dimensions in recent organizational approaches to workplace well-being such as ASSET (Robertson & Cooper, 2011).
13But 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).
14But 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).
15But What is Well-Being at Work? Psychological and Sociological ComponentsSelf (determined) identity in a social contextThe absence of sociological perspectives on happiness and well-being.Neo-liberalism, Workplace Restructuring and Existential Insecurity (Zygmunt Bauman), in what conditions can employee well-being be said to exist? In particular, can it exist when employees are faced with a process of rapid organizational change that undermines their social and personal goals and values and their identity. The sociologist Zygmunt Bauman has argued that this is the fate of all but the most privileged workers in the globalized world of neo-liberal capitalism (Bauman, 1998). As employment has become increasingly flexible and insecure the fixed and solid identities associated with the ‘work ethic’ and the ‘producer society’ have become increasingly untenable and have been replaced by the fluid and transient fragments of meaning derived from the world of shopping and consumerism. In the consumer society, individuals become global ‘tourists’ who derive meaning from the constantly changing tastes and experiences in the world of consumption and constantly face an ‘existential crisis’ in a liquid world of constant movement and change. I think it is evident that Bauman overstates the extent to which social and individual meaning has become disembedded from the workplace. This is not to say, however, that the existential security and well-being of workers has not been disrupted in significant ways. The case of public service professionals is an excellent example of how workplace identities have been disrupted by recent organizational change and provides an insight into how we might conduct research into this phenomenon.
16Case Study: Public Service Professionals Identity: Caring, duty, empathy.Ending Contradiction: Existential InsecurityRestructuring and Austerity: A Threat to Existential Well-Being?The distinctiveness of (many) public service professionals is the way in which their identity or working self is defined in opposition to the dominant values and orientations of a rationalized capitalist society. The list is not exhaustive but public service professional work is based on notions of duty, caring, empathy as against the rational, calculating values and orientations of mainstream society. There was always a sense of existential insecurity as these values and orientations ran up against the rationalizing realities of bureaucratic organizations. However, in recent decades the rapid nature of organizational change within the public services has intensified existential insecurity to the point where it threatens the ‘existential well—being’ of public service professionals.
17Public Service Cuts and Restructuring 1970s: Rationalization and Reorganization1980s: Privatization and Marketization1990s: New Public Manangement2000s: Austerity and CutsThe reforms introduced in recent decades have threatened existing notions of public service on which the professional identity of occupations such as teaching, social work and nursing is based. During the 1980s and early 1990s, public services were subject to a process of privatization and marketization by the Conservative Governments of the Thatcher and Major eras. In what remained of the public sector, this included the development of ‘compulsory competitive tendering’ and the introduction of ‘internal markets’ in the NHS. The election of New Labour in 1997 modified the policies being applied to public services, but there was also a marked degree of continuity with the pre-1997 Conservative administrations. New Labour continued the momentum of restructuring based on cost control and performance indicators; although compulsion and competition increasingly gave way to the terminology of ‘partnership’ and ‘best value’. Welfare services were increasingly managed by cost-limited, output-driven ‘enabling’ organizations in a network of contractual service relationships. High-trust state funded arrangements were replaced by low trust centralized financial control and quasi-market mechanisms.
18Impact 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 reflexivityNew divisions based on ‘caring’ and ‘entrepreneurial’ values.The public service ethos was therefore increasingly marginalized by a logic of economic rationalization that subsumes diverse practices within a process of rationalized market-based calculability (Du Gay, 1994). In this context, public servants have decreasing scope for critical reflexivity and there is evidence that professional groups willing and able to adopt the language of commercialism, in both public and private sectors, are deploying the rhetoric of entrepreneurialism in order to re-exert control (Hanlon, 1998). The moral commitment of welfare professions and managers can no longer be taken for granted in the post-bureaucratic state. The public sector as a group has become increasingly divided between professional managerial strategists (mainly men) espousing entrepreneurial values and devalued welfare professionals espousing caring values. The wide scale societal ambivalence towards the professional recognition of social welfare occupations enabled the new public management to enact a de-professionalizing function and the social welfare workforce has been destabilized by gendered assumptions about caring professions in which there are a high concentration of women (Healy, 2009).
19Self-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 rationalizedPublic 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 ambiguousThe development of public service was part of an extended historical process whereby the state became involved in either the regulation or direct delivery of a range of goods and services on the basis of an always contested and contestable ‘public interest’. In the long-term, this resulted in the clear demarcation of public services as a range of services and industries marked by the de-commodification of service delivery and politicization of organizational dynamics and decision-making procedures. These services were subject to bureaucratic forms of organization that were driven by ‘political’ rather than ‘market’ proxies. The development of public services generated particular and specific forms of organizational culture and workplace identity. Public service identities were thus constituted by a search for meaning in organizations where there were important limits on the extent to which public service labour could be rationalized. Indeed, work of this type emerged in response to the problems and contradictions generated by rationalization within the capitalist economy. Consequently, public service employment emerged as variable, socially-responsive and reflexive and based on the conceptualization and amelioration of social problems (Webb, 1999: 748). In contrast to the ‘private sector’ senior public servants formed a group of welfare professionals who were politically and socially distinctive and are 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 (Bagguley, 1995). The restructuring of public services has involved the reconfiguration of the ‘public’ and the ‘private’ and this has important implications for the culture of public service and the identity of public servants. There has been a proliferation of organizations delivering public services that are in neither the ‘public’ nor the ‘private’ sector as these were understood throughout most of the last century. The boundaries between the public and the private have become increasingly porous or indeed imploded to reveal a new institutional configuration of public services defined by their ambiguous relationship to the state and the market. In this ambiguous world, users are neither ‘citizens’ nor ‘customers’; managers are not accountable directly either to politicians or markets; workers are neither public servants nor private sector employees.
20The 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’.
21Re-Centring the Human Subject Sociological TurnsCulturalGlobalComplexityDe-humanizationExistential Turn?Re-CentringRe-humanizationIn my recent book on The New Political Sociology (Taylor, 2011) I argued for an ‘existential turn’ in sociology that would return the human subject back to the centre stage of sociological enquiry. The book was an attempt to highlight how the human subject had been systematically de-centred by the ‘cultural’, ‘global’ and ‘complexity’ turns in sociology and the ways in which this ‘existential turn’ could overcome the anti-humanism of the dominant theoretical approaches in contemporary sociology. I am of course aware that the term existentialism covers a vast range of writers whose differences are as important as their similarities. However, following Craib (1976: 11) I suggest that the work of Jean-Paul Sartre stands out as being important to sociology. In his early work Sartre provides invaluable insights into the nature of the self and interpersonal relationships while his later works provide the basis for an ‘open’ Marxism that is able to adequately investigate questions of human subjectivity
22Why 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 ( )
23Why Sartre? ‘Existence precedes essence’ Freedom ‘We are condemned to be free’ResponsibilityAuthenticityThis requires a focus on individual existence and consciousness and the ways in which individuals are engaged in the construction of the world by which they are surrounded. The ‘self’ engages with, but remains distinct from, external reality
24Being and Nothingness Being-in-itself Being-for-itself Gap = ‘Nothingness’ = FreedomBeing-for-others > ‘Bad faith’The ‘self’ engages with, but remains distinct from, external reality such that there is always a gap between what Sartre termed being-in-itself and being-for-self. Sartre defined this gap as ‘nothingness’ and it is this nothingness that constitutes human freedom in the form of the ability to conceptualize beyond the limitations of time and space and imagine new and alternative forms of social life.
25Bad Faith Objectification Individuals impose limits on own freedom in interaction with othersBad faith > ‘Flight from anguish’In our interaction with others we are objects of consciousness (being-in-itself) and to the extent that we accept this objectification (being-for-others) then we deceive ourselves and play a role in ‘bad faith’ in a ‘flight from anguish
26Public Service as Bad Faith Freedom – Ability to conceptualize beyond time and space and imagine alternativesPublic Service: (Limited) Alternative to Commodification and RationalizationReflexive work based on empathy, discretion and tacit knowledge (Claus Offe).Emotional LabourBetween public/private = inbetweenness, liminality or ‘stickiness’(Self-)Responsiblity for austerity and cuts?This is the basis for the type of reflexivity attributed to public servants by Claus Offe (Offe, 1985): reflexive work as an important source of progressive social change premised on the value rationality of social actors that is conceptual and concerned with regulating, normalizing and maintaining work itself. This type of labour resisted rationalization as it was based on empathy, discretion and tacit knowledge and had the potential to pose an important challenged to alienated forms of work.The radical implication of Sartre’s analysis is that public service professionals are themselves responsible for the defence of public service in the everyday conduct of their working lives. To act in bad faith and live the roles imposed by the rationalizing logic of neo-liberal capitalism is at once to deny our own humanity and the humanism that underpinned the civilizing effects of public services in modern society.
27Existential Well-Being? Responsibility – Well-being or Self and OthersWell-Being as FreedomResistance to Objectification (particularly objectively defined notions of happiness and well-being)