Respecting the subject in wellbeing public policy: beyond the social planner perspective

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Alexandrova, A 
Coyle, D 
Agarwala, M 
Felici, M 

There is rising advocacy for public policy to be made on the basis of ‘wellbeing’. We compare and evaluate two competing paradigms within this space that we term the social planner perspective (SPP) and citizen perspective (CP) respectively, with the intention of improving interdisciplinary dialogue. We argue that most wellbeing public policy (WPP) proposals adopt the same SPP that undergirds conventional economic policy analysis. This perspective 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. This is the 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. However, the CP is not without drawbacks. In particular, it is slow and logistically intensive. It is also relatively unsuitable for private, individual, and low-stakes domains of public policy. We present a preliminary framework for thinking through when the SPP or CP is more suitable to a particular area of WPP.

Wellbeing, public policy, social planner, coproduction, participatory governance
Journal Title
Journal of European Public Policy
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Informa UK Limited
ESRC (ES/T005556/1)