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 welcome page » Ethics  » Economy and governance ethics 

The Politics of Subjective Well-Being

A Critique based on the Theory of Economic Ethics

"Ethics and Economics"  · volume 17

283 pp. ·  36.80 EUR (incl. VAT and Free shipping)
ISBN 978-3-7316-1155-4 (July 2016) )

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People aspire to being happy. Does this innate human longing for happiness entitle policymakers to actually try to "produce" happiness though? This question is not a new one in economics and politics; what is unprecedented however is the practical relevance that it has gained of late. This has occurred, on the one hand, because new happiness measurement techniques — and in particular subjective forms of well-being evaluation—have become readily available, with the various research insights that have been derived making such endeavors seem promising. On the other hand, as part of the fall out following the global economic and financial crises of 2008, faith in the market economy has since steadily fallen, with many people now increasingly aspiring to a more human-centered system of organizing social cooperation. In light of the presumed ability to even be capable of successfully pursuing happiness-driven policymaking, alongside people's more earnest quest for happiness as well as a paradigm shift in the market economy, an increasing number of politicians, nongovernmental organizations, and academics hailing from different disciplines are now advocating the politics of subjective well-being (SWB).

Against this backdrop, Dominic Kerner applies an economic ethics theory to examine whether happiness-driven theories of policymaking are indeed promising means by which to systematically organize flourishing social cooperation or not. In focus are the two most prominent and oppositional approaches vis-à-vis the politics of SWB, namely the "maximization" paradigm and the "constitutional" paradigm. The analysis is framed within the three-level game paradigm of stable social cooperation. This conceptualization is grounded in the premise that a sufficient level of consistency between the understanding of the game, rules of the game, and moves within the game is crucial for successful social cooperation to emerge. By systematically reflecting on the structural conditions of social cooperation in modern society and by using a variety of different theoretical and empirical arguments the analysis brings to light concerns about both paradigms as regards the politics of SWB, ones that can undermine consistency — and thus require much closer attention.

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