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

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Dr graham taylor associate professor in sociology department of health and applied social sciences
Happiness and Well-Being in an Age of Austerity: The Existential DilemmaSocial Science in the City™

Dr Graham Taylor

Associate Professor in Sociology

Department of Health and Applied Social Sciences

Happiness and well being in an age of austerity the existential dilemma
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

The elusive search for happiness
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.

Gross national happiness
Gross National Happiness?

  • Kingdom of Bhutan

    • Balance between material and non-material and social and spiritual needs

  • OECD: Work of Joseph Stiglitz and AmartyaSenhighlight limits of ‘Gross National Income’ and search for alternatives.

David cameron
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."

Is britain happy

Britons still happy despite financial woes, survey finds

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

Can we really measure happiness and well being
Can we really measure Happiness and Well-Being?

  • Nicolas Sarkozy: the measuring of happiness a priority.

  • Social Portrait of France (2010). Detailed chapter onmethodologies for measuring well-being

  • StéfanLollivier, 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."

Well being intellectual traditions
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

Well being intellectual traditions1
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.

Well being intellectual traditions2
Well-Being: Intellectual Traditions

  • Objective Well-Being

  • Functioning of Human Capacities

  • AmartyaSen

  • Well-Being as Substantive Freedom

    • live to old age

    • engage in economic transactions

    • participate in political activities

The benefits of well being at work
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

Well being at work measurement and improvement
Well-Being at Work: Measurement and Improvement

  • Combine hedonic and eudaimonic aspects of well-being


    • Control and Autonomy

    • Work (over)Load

    • Productivity

    • Psychological (Ill) Health

But what is well being at work
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).

But what is well being at work1
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).

But what is well being at work2
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)

Case study public service professionals
Case Study: Public Service Professionals

  • Identity: Caring, duty, empathy.

  • Ending Contradiction: Existential Insecurity

  • Restructuring and Austerity: A Threat to Existential Well-Being?

Public service cuts and restructuring
Public Service Cuts and Restructuring

  • 1970s: Rationalization and Reorganization

  • 1980s: Privatization and Marketization

  • 1990s: New Public Manangement

  • 2000s: Austerity and Cuts

Impact on public service identities
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.

Self identity and public service
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

The limits of well being
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’.

Re centring the human subject
Re-Centring the Human Subject

  • Sociological Turns

    • Cultural

    • Global

    • Complexity

    • De-humanization

  • Existential Turn?

    • Re-Centring

    • Re-humanization

Why sartre
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 (1905-1980)

Why sartre1
Why Sartre?

  • ‘Existence precedes essence’

  • Freedom ‘We are condemned to be free’

  • Responsibility

  • Authenticity

Being and nothingness
Being and Nothingness

  • Being-in-itself

  • Being-for-itself

  • Gap = ‘Nothingness’ = Freedom

  • Being-for-others > ‘Bad faith’

Bad faith
Bad Faith

  • Objectification

  • Individuals impose limits on own freedom in interaction with others

  • Bad faith > ‘Flight from anguish’

Public service as bad faith
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?

Existential well being
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)