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 6: The ‘wicked problem’ of wellbeing

Ian Bache and Louise Reardon


Chapter 6 reflects on key controversies that are central to the prospects for wellbeing in policy, focusing on four issues in particular: reliability and validity (of data), responsibility (for action), distrust (of politicians) and distraction (from other concerns). It suggests that it is difficult to adjudicate between the various arguments as they often take very different starting points, either meta-theoretical or disciplinary. In seeking to steer a course through these arguments the chapter takes the distinction between ‘wicked’ and ‘tame’ problems as a reference point, arguing that the challenge of bringing wellbeing further into policy should be categorised as the former. The arguments are grounded in relation to empirical research on the UK, although a number of the arguments apply more generally.

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