Subjective Wellbeing: Telling Only Half the Story
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A new paper presents a strong case for life satisfaction scales (Diener et al. in Soc Indic Res, 2012). However, it underestimates two important weaknesses in subjective wellbeing (SWB) measures: the contrast between individual satisfaction and social discontent; and the contradictory evidence on the benefits of personal freedom. This commentary argues that SWB, like other conventional indicators, is measuring Westernization or modernization, rather than improved quality of life or human progress and development. The concepts may overlap, but they are not the same thing. At best, the qualities being measured may be desirable, even necessary, but are not sufficient. At worst, the benefits of modernization are being counted, but not its costs, which are substantial and increasing.
KeywordsFreedom Happiness Human development Individualization Life satisfaction Modernization Progress Subjective wellbeing
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