Like planning for peace during a long war, anticipating the challenges of sustaining world happiness is surely a crucial part of development planning.
In the post-WW2 era of nation-building and international development planning, we have had seven decades of mainly remedial and instrumentalist planning. We seem to be approaching the horizon when poverty will have been more or less eradicated, and tolerable living conditions provided for nearly everyone on earth. The development planners who helped these processes along focused first on post-traumatic reconstruction, then economic growth, then poverty reduction and environmental harms, and more recently on human rights and social justice. But only very recently have governments and international agencies begun to think seriously about the challenges of sustainable happiness.
Since there is fairly clear evidence that we are lurching towards a global happiness epidemic, hadn’t we better plan for it? Hadn’t we better consider what kinds of happiness are good, and why, and whether happiness might be sustainable? Alternatively, in case the happiness epidemic is likely to infect some populations but not others, what are the moral and practical implications of new sociocultural patterns in the inequality of happiness?
Speaker: Dr Neil Thin, School of Social Sciences