Elements of a Sociological Contribution to Happiness Studies: Social Context, Unintended Consequence

Jun 27th, 2015
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A significant body of social-science research on happiness has accrued in recent decades, produced mainly by economists and psychologists. Sociologists, however, have made more limited contributions to “happiness studies”.

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Elements of a Sociological Contribution to Happiness Studies:Social Context, Unintended Consequences, and DiscoursesDavid BartramDepartment of SociologyUniversity of LeicesterUniversity RoadLeicester LE1 7RHUnited Kingdomt: +44 116 252 2724f: +44 116 252 5259d.bartram@le.ac.ukOctober 2011AbstractA significant body of social-science research on happiness has accrued in recent decades,produced mainly by economists and psychologists. Sociologists, however, have made morelimited contributions to happiness studies. This paper provides an overview of concepts,methods and findings and suggests some questions about happiness that ought to be ofsubstantial interest to sociology. Many sociologists are clearly interested in the well-beingof the people they study (sometimes suggesting policy implications emerging from theirempirical findings); happiness is a presumptively important form of well-being, and anengagement with happiness studies might constitute a way to develop more systematicconnections between well-being and academic research. Building on existing findings,sociologists would be well-placed to consider the social context of happiness (as against anindividualist orientation more common in other disciplines) as well as the unintendedconsequences of policy initiatives and happiness discourses.A great deal of sociological research is manifestly motivated by concern for the well-being ofthe people being researched. Many who write about

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