Chapter 3 begins to address the first question of the book – how and why has the idea of wellbeing risen up the political agenda? – drawing on the analytical framework developed in Chapter 2. It identifies two ‘waves’ of interest in wellbeing since the end of the Second World War that a share a critique of GDP as the dominant indicator of societal progress: the first wave rising in the 1960s and falling in the 1970s, and the second beginning in the 1990s and continuing to the present. It explains the rise and fall of the social indicators movement in the first wave and the distinctive features of the current second wave, which is the main focus of the book. This second wave is characterised by increasing attention to environmental issues and greater confidence in the measurement of wellbeing, and particularly subjective wellbeing. In this chapter we limit our discussion of the second wave to developments that have placed the issue on the agenda of major international organisations, before turning to developments in specific political systems in Chapter 4.
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