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SKAPE: Research


Is wellbeing economics a secure basis on which to build a post-COVID welfare policy?

Event Name Is wellbeing economics a secure basis on which to build a post-COVID welfare policy?
Start Date 11th Nov 2020 11:30am
End Date 11th Nov 2020 12:30pm
Duration 1 hour

On 11 November, we welcome David Yarrow (PIR, Edinburgh) as part of the SKAPE Seminar Series 2020-21.

The COVID-19 pandemic has raised with a new urgency the question of how welfare systems and employment policy should be reformed to deal with automation, platform-mediated work and generalised precarity. Social democratic political economy is split between two broad agendas – a mainstream perspective centred on a jobs guarantee or similar employment-promoting policies; and a perspective which prioritises guaranteed income and job-sharing. In the wake of COVID-19, wellbeing economics has also re-surfaced as a paradigm through which to re-orient economic policy priorities. This paper presents a novel critique of wellbeing economics and its role in contemporary welfare policy debates, by analysing how it mediates this central debate in contemporary social democracy over two possible models of the future of work. Against existing critiques, I argue the wellbeing paradigm is underpinned by an under-socialised and ahistorical view of human nature with roots in positive psychology. These methodological commitments lead it to naturalise the contingent hedonic effects of existing political and economic institutions, lending it an inherent status-quo bias. In this context, this leads it to policy commitments that favour retaining the centrality of wage labour to our welfare system and citizenship model. Wellbeing economics is neither a politically neutral nor intrinsically progressive form of expertise, but rather a distinctively liberal governance discourse with consequential effects on the trajectory of welfare and employment policy in post-industrial societies. 

The seminar will take place online via Zoom (for link details, please email the Co-Directors - if you are already a member/associate member of SKAPE, then you will receive a Zoom link two days before the start of the event).