The Politics and Policy of Wellbeing

The Politics and Policy of Wellbeing

Understanding the Rise and Significance of a New Agenda

Ian Bache and Louise Reardon

Government interest in wellbeing as an explicit goal of public policy has increased significantly in recent years, leading to new developments in measuring wellbeing and initiatives aimed specifically at enhancing wellbeing. This book provides the first theoretically informed account of the rise and significance of this agenda, drawing on the multiple streams approach, to consider whether wellbeing can be described as ‘an idea whose time has come’. It reflects on developments across the globe and provides a detailed comparative analysis of two political arenas: the UK and the EU.

Chapter 2: Theorising agenda-setting and policy change

Ian Bache and Louise Reardon

Subjects: politics and public policy, european politics and policy, international politics, public policy, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy, sociology and sociological theory, urban and regional studies, transport


This chapter sets out the theoretical framework for the book. In relation to the first question – how and why has the idea of wellbeing risen up the political agenda? – it outlines concepts that relate to the diffusion of ideas across boundaries before turning to Kingdon’s multiple streams approach to understanding agenda-setting. This approach identifies three separate processes or ‘streams’ of problems, policies and politics that develop largely in isolation from each other but which present the greatest opportunity for policy change when they are brought together. In relation to the second question – what are the policy implications of this rising interest in the idea of wellbeing? – the analytical framework turns to Hall’s conception of social learning and contributions that subsequently developed this approach.

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