Handbook on the Economics of Happiness
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Handbook on the Economics of Happiness

Edited by Luigino Bruni and Pier Luigi Porta

This book is a welcome consolidation and extension of the recent expanding debates on happiness and economics. Happiness and economics, as a new field for research, is now of pivotal interest particularly to welfare economists and psychologists. This Handbook provides an unprecedented forum for discussion of the economic issues relating to happiness. It reviews the more recent literature and offers the interested reader an insight into the vast scope of the field in terms of the theory, its applications and also experimental design. The Handbook also gives substantial indications as to the future direction of research in the field, with particular regard to policy applications and developing an economics of interpersonal relations which includes reciprocity and social interaction theory.
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Chapter 5: Public Happiness and Civil Society

Pier Luigi Porta and Roberto Scazzieri


Pier Luigi Porta and Roberto Scazzieri 1. Introduction Happiness is a multifaceted concept whose roots may be traced back to philosophical anthropology. In particular, happiness has both an individual and a social dimension. The former is related to the sphere of feelings and moral sentiments. The latter is connected with moral sentiments and enabling conditions. The social dimension of happiness is linked with the individual dimension primarily through the existence of a sphere of interactions that is specifically associated with the social recognition of a certain class of individual feelings and achievements. Public happiness may be associated with a constellation of enabling conditions, by which individuals (and social groups) find that their purposes are mutually recognized and their capabilities turned into actual ‘functionings’ (Sen 1985). The structure of public happiness calls attention to the role of social knowledge and institutions. The former translates private feelings into socially recognized codes of behaviour. The latter turns ‘socially admissible’ purposes into a set of feasible choices and actions. The above perspective suggests that public happiness is associated with the interplay of cultural beliefs and social opportunities. Civil society is a sphere of possible outcomes resulting from the ‘horizontal’ interactions of individuals (or social groups). It may be considered as a virtual setting in which individuals (or groups) ‘take up a position’ relative to one another in virtue of a particular structure of admissible events. The structure of the chapter is as follows. Section 1 introduces a conceptual framework in which public happiness...

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