Published on 28 June 2022
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Respecting the subject in subjective wellbeing public policy

A 'citizen perspective' should be given a greater role in wellbeing public policymaking.


We compare and evaluate two competing paradigms in the ‘wellbeing public policy’ (WPP) space with the intention of promoting interdisciplinary dialogue. We argue that most WPP proposals adopt the same ‘social planner perspective’ (SPP) that undergirds conventional economic policy analysis. The SPP is broadly technocratic, emphasising scientific standards for what constitutes good policy and empowering ‘dispassionate’ experts. We argue that WPP could lend itself to a more transformative agenda, one that embraces the value-laden nature of ‘wellbeing’ as a concept. We call this the ‘citizen’s perspective’ (CP). It would see WPP relinquish the SPP’s stance of detached analysis by technical experts and instead give a greater role to participatory and deliberative modes of policymaking to define, analyse, and measure wellbeing and ultimately make policy decisions. We present a preliminary framework for analysing when the SPP or CP is more suitable to a particular area of WPP.

The project is funded by the UKRI Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and UKRI Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

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Dr Mark Fabian

Affiliated Researcher

Mark Fabian is Assistant Professor of Public Policy at the University of Warwick and an Affiliated Researcher at the Bennett Institute for Public Policy. He continues to work with colleagues...

Professor Anna Alexandrova

Professor Anna Alexandrova is a Professor in Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge, with a special focus on social sciences. Prior to her current role, she was an...

Diane Coyle 2018

Professor Diane Coyle

Bennett Professor of Public Policy and Co-Director of the Bennett Institute for Public Policy

Professor Coyle co-directs the Bennett Institute with Professor Kenny. She is heading research under the progress and productivity themes. Biography Professor Dame Diane Coyle is the Bennett Professor of Public Policy at...

Matthew Agarwala

Dr Matthew Agarwala

Affiliated Researcher

Dr Matthew Agarwala is an economist interested in wealth-based approaches to measuring and delivering sustainability, wellbeing, and productivity. His research is motivated by the belief that 21st century progress cannot...

Marco Felici

Dr Marco Felici

Affiliated Researcher

Dr Marco Felici works at the intersection of policy and research, with interests spanning household finance, housing, subjective wellbeing, and mental health. With colleagues at the Bennett Institute, he explores...

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