Measuring a Nation’s Wellbeing: A Psycho-cultural Investigation

Book chapter


Lennon-Patience, Siobhan 2012. Measuring a Nation’s Wellbeing: A Psycho-cultural Investigation. in: Esin, Cigdem, Hawkins, Matthew, Salami, Iwa, Tamboukou, Maria, Townley, Lynn and Wells, Marianne (ed.) Crossing Conceptual Boundaries IV London University of East London, School of Law and Social Sciences. pp. 18-32
AuthorsLennon-Patience, Siobhan
EditorsEsin, Cigdem, Hawkins, Matthew, Salami, Iwa, Tamboukou, Maria, Townley, Lynn and Wells, Marianne
Abstract

This paper investigates the cultural, social and political contexts of the Prime Minister, David
Cameron's proposal to measure the wellbeing of the UK population. I adopt a psycho-cultural
approach whereby theories and methods from the disciplines of psychoanalytic and psychosocial
studies are combined with those from the fields of media and cultural studies. The paper includes
relevant case study material taken from the UK press, television, documents and artefacts within
popular culture. From this investigation, I provide a critical cultural analysis and contextualisation
of the proposal to measure wellbeing. This comprises an examination of recurring themes and
discourses in those texts, linking them with cultural movements and histories. I explore the
position of wellbeing measurement in terms of the contemporary psychosocial debates about the
nature of 'therapy culture’. The paper draws on Cooper’s (2009) psychodynamic approach to the
interrogation of policy processes, which explores that which is absent, suppressed or denied. I
suggest that the current exposition of wellbeing measurement, as deployed by David Cameron, is
underpinned by a culturally powerful therapeutic discourse, comprised of a version of self-help
therapy culture that has an undercurrent of neoliberal pro-market values. This discourse has been
strategically applied by the current government as a means of situating the locus of responsibility
for personal wellbeing firmly on the individual. This investigation forms a new intervention in
contemporary psychosocial debates about the nature and value of ‘therapy culture’ and is a
contribution to the development of a psycho-cultural studies approach.

KeywordsPsycho-Cultural; Happiness; Neoliberal; Therapy Culture; Wellbeing
Book titleCrossing Conceptual Boundaries IV
Page range18-32
Year2012
PublisherUniversity of East London, School of Law and Social Sciences
Publication dates
Print2012
Publication process dates
Deposited09 Sep 2013
Place of publicationLondon
Web address (URL)http://www.uel.ac.uk/lss/research/yearbook/
Copyright holderThe author
Publisher's version
License
CC BY-ND
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