The Politics and Policy of Wellbeing
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The Politics and Policy of Wellbeing

Understanding the Rise and Significance of a New Agenda

Ian Bache and Louise Reardon

Government interest in wellbeing as an explicit goal of public policy has increased significantly in recent years, leading to new developments in measuring wellbeing and initiatives aimed specifically at enhancing wellbeing. This book provides the first theoretically informed account of the rise and significance of this agenda, drawing on the multiple streams approach, to consider whether wellbeing can be described as ‘an idea whose time has come’. It reflects on developments across the globe and provides a detailed comparative analysis of two political arenas: the UK and the EU.
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Chapter 4: A comparative analysis of the UK and EU

Ian Bache and Louise Reardon


Chapter 4 continues the focus on the second question of the book – how and why has the idea of wellbeing risen up the political agenda? It begins with an overview of developments across a number of political systems before turning to a detailed comparative analysis of the rise of wellbeing in the UK and EU systems. In doing so it both responds to the call for more comparative studies of agenda-setting and provides insights into the relationship between processes that connect different political systems within the context of multi-level governance. This comparative study allows not only for a more systematic exploration of the key variables in policymaking in different contexts (e.g., the institutional structures, decision-making processes and the role of interest groups) but also the potential for understanding the exclusion of ideas from the agenda or ‘non-decisions’. The discussion of each case study is structured according to Kingdon’s multiple streams approach, considering in turn policy, politics and problem streams. The comparative analysis reveals both institutional and ideational biases that shape the agenda-setting dynamics of the wellbeing issue in different contexts and produce different emphases in approaches to defining and measuring wellbeing.

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