• Jonathan JosephEmail author
  • J. Allister McGregor
Part of the Building a Sustainable Political Economy: SPERI Research & Policy book series (SPERIRP)


This chapter reviews the recent resurgence of the idea of wellbeing in policy narratives and in the social sciences. It considers the different contributions that have coalesced to generate the current enthusiasm and critically assess the implications of various forms of the notion of wellbeing—from happiness to quality of life to life satisfaction—for governance. In particular, it is concerned to highlight different approaches to conceptualising and measuring wellbeing and the problems that these raise. Differentiating between an instrumental use of wellbeing focused on the individual and more philosophical and culturally differentiated approaches, it suggests that a more restricted understanding is being employed as part of the new strategies of governance. We look at how wellbeing has been connected to the idea of social capital, explore how it relates to ideas of resilience and sustainability and consider how the three can be said to constitute a new trinity in contemporary policy and governance narratives.


Wellbeing Governance Social capital Measurement 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Sociology, Politics and International StudiesUniversity of BristolBristolUK
  2. 2.Department of Politics and International RelationsUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldUK

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