Edited by Luigino Bruni and Pier Luigi Porta
Chapter 21: Happiness and the Standard of Living: The Case of South Africa
Nattavudh Powdthavee* 1. Introduction An advert for Oxfam1 appeals asks people in the UK, ‘What do we dream for our children?’. If we were then to stop and think about the question for a minute, most of us would probably respond with success and health. However, according to Oxfam, a more natural response would have been happiness – or more simply, a ‘good life’ – for our children. The question then is what constitutes happiness? A review of research on well-being by Wilson (1967: p. 294) suggests that happiness comes from being young, healthy, welleducated, well-paid, religious, married with high self-esteem and job morale, modest aspirations, of either sex and of a wide range of intelligence. Oxfam, on the other hand, mentions none of the above in their list of possible answers. Rather, the things that constitute a good life for our children – at least in the developing countries that would receive aid – are more likely to be food, drinking water, and a shelter that they could call home. The signiﬁcant diﬀerence in the possible replies to Oxfam’s happiness question, though it may seem predictable to many, raises some very important questions. If individuals’ perception of what makes a good life depends crucially on how the normative framework for evaluation is formed, can we still then be reasonably satisﬁed with the conclusion that being married and young, highly paid with low aspirations, healthy and well-educated are all it takes to be global requirements for human happiness and well-being...
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