Broadening the Public and Policy Discourse
New Horizons in Management series
Edited by Timo J. Hämäläinen and Juliet Michaelson
Chapter 1: New theories and policies for well-being: introduction
What are the essential attributes of a person? What is it to be human? These eternal questions are of course the domain of philosophy, literature and religion, but implicit answers to these questions also drive the real-world business of policy making. The urge to provide new answers to these questions underpins the ever more prominent discussions about the concept of well-being. Such discussions seek to provide an answer from the point of view of what makes human lives go well. The motivation for suggestions that improving human well-being should become the primary focus of modern societies is the view that policy making currently takes too narrow an approach to answering these fundamental questions and, in particular, that policy making ought to widen its scope beyond an overarching focus on economic success. The economics discipline has had great success in getting its own models, notably that famous abstraction of rational self-interest, homo economicus, to be those which policy makers use by default. Turning the discussion to well-being opens the door to the understanding gained by a much broader tranche of those researching human lives across the social and health sciences. The sense that our lives and societies are more complex now than at any other time in the past is a key reason why many are seeking new means of explaining them.