Centre for Knowledge, Innovation, Technology and Enterprise

Little Heresies Seminar Series3

Heresy #3: The Truth about Wellbeing and the Trouble with Measurement

Heretic: Karen Scott, Newcastle University (9 July 2014).

Karen's heresy focussed on ‘wellbeing’ and how it is being measured on national and international levels, as she argues that wellbeing measures are not just objective statistics but they help to shape what we think wellbeing is or should be. This affects how policy is made and Karen showed the audience a series of highly manipulated representations of wellbeing, particularly the use of 'killer charts' which are deployed by policy makers to simplify evidence and create clear policy stories.

She also discussed whether current wellbeing policy and measurement is a radical shift to a better society or a drive to get people to conform to the status quo. Should we be unhappy activists or Aristotle’s happy slaves? Karen commented: "In my more optimistic moments, I see the major drive to look at wellbeing across the world as a positive shift to different ways of thinking and a new paradigm of development. On a bad day I think the drive to measure wellbeing is nothing more than neoliberalism in a fluffy dress."

Listen to: Heresy #3: The Truth about Wellbeing and the Trouble with Measurement.