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The Politics and Policy of Wellbeing

Understanding the Rise and Significance of a New Agenda Ian Bache, Professor of Politics and Co-Director of the Centre for Wellbeing in Public Policy (CWiPP), University of Sheffield and Louise Reardon, Lecturer, Institute of Local Government Studies, University of Birmingham, UK
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.
Extent: 200 pp
Hardback Price: $110.00 Web: $99.00
Publication Date: 2016
ISBN: 978 1 78347 932 0
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  • Politics and Public Policy
  • European Politics and Policy
  • International Politics
  • Public Policy
  • Social Policy and Sociology
  • Comparative Social Policy
  • Sociology and Sociological Theory
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Government interest in wellbeing as an explicit goal of public policy has increased significantly in recent years. This has led to new developments in measuring wellbeing and initiatives aimed specifically at enhancing it, that reflect new thinking on ‘what matters’ and challenge established notions of societal progress. The Politics and Policy of Wellbeing provides the first theoretically grounded and empirically informed account of the rise and significance of wellbeing in contemporary politics and policy.

Drawing on theories of agenda-setting and policy change, Ian Bache and Louise Reardon consider whether wellbeing can be described as ‘an idea whose time has come’. The book reflects on developments across the globe and provides a detailed comparative analysis of two political arenas: the UK and the EU. Offering the first reflection grounded in evidence of the potential for wellbeing to be paradigm changing, the authors identify the challenge of bringing wellbeing into policy as a ‘wicked problem’ that policymakers are only now beginning to grapple with.

This pioneering account of wellbeing from a political science perspective is a unique and valuable contribution to the field. The authors’ theoretical and empirical conclusions are of great interest to scholars of politics and wellbeing alike.
‘I have never seen a book like this. The authors seem to me to be ahead of their time: they are the first to try to explain the gradual rise and rise of ideas about “wellbeing” in modern society. At the time of writing, nobody knows where this intellectual current will end, but it will probably be several oceans away. The book should be read by economists, psychologists, political scientists, historians and policymakers. It is a prescient and wickedly interesting read.’
– Andrew Oswald, University of Warwick, UK

‘The study of wellbeing is arguably the most vibrant and compelling multi-disciplinary research program in contemporary social science. Beyond the academy, wellbeing research is increasingly coming to inform the making of public policy across the world. This beautifully written and meticulously researched book provides a much needed assessment of the promise and problems of wellbeing as a scholarly and policy phenomenon. Thoughtful, authoritative and engaging, it is necessary reading for anyone wishing to understand the new politics of wellbeing.’
– Benjamin Radcliff, University of Notre Dame, US

‘Politicians have re-discovered quality of life as the purpose of politics, policymakers look through the lens of wellbeing and national statistical offices are publishing new measures. In this timely, wide-ranging and insightful book, Bache and Reardon help us make sense of all of this using the discipline of political science. This is a must-read for all of the above-mentioned actors, as well as researchers, students, commentators, business leaders and everyone with an interest in wellbeing.’
– Paul Allin, Imperial College London and Former Director of the ONS National Well-being Programme, UK

Contents: 1. Wellbeing in Politics and Policy 2. Theorising Agenda-setting and Policy Change 3. Two Waves of Wellbeing 4. A Comparative Analysis of the UK and EU 5. Wellbeing in Policy 6. The ‘Wicked Problem’ of Wellbeing 7. Conclusions Index