Posts in Politics of Well-Being
The lazy mysticism of Alan Watts

The only thinker whose popularity on YouTube comes close to prophet-of-rage Jordan Peterson is Alan Watts, the British popularizer of Eastern wisdom. Watts’ talks from the 50s, 60s and early 70s have millions of views on YouTube, and are often edited to the accompaniment of orchestral or ‘chillstep’ soundtracks and jazzy collages of modern life.

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Review: The Wellness Syndrome

How are you feeling? How well are you? Is your weight where you want it to be? Smoking too much? How happy are you on a scale of one to ten? Are you optimising your personal brand? How fast was your last five kilometre run? Would you like to share that via social media? Would you like a life-coach to help you overcome these challenges on a way to a better, happier, more awesome you?

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Review: The Happiness Industry by William Davies

Watch out folks. There is a murky world lurking behind the scenes, a sinister cabal of policy-makers, psychologists, CEOs, advertizers and life-coaches, watching you, measuring you, nudging you, monitoring your every smile, all to try and make you happy. We must resist. This, broadly, is the message of sociologist William Davies’ book, The Happiness Industry: How Government and Big Business Sold Us Well-Being.

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Anthony Seldon on venturing beyond happiness

Sir Anthony Seldon is the former headmaster of Wellington College, one of the first schools to introduce well-being classes into its curriculum. He's also a co-founder of Action for Happiness. In his new book, Beyond Happiness, he suggests we need to look beyond 'workaday happiness' to find something more non-rational and spiritual, which he calls joy or bliss. I interviewed him about this, as well as his thoughts on the 'politics of well-being' and his plans to create the first 'positive university'.

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Philosophies for Life pilot: the results

This year I’ve developed and trialled an eight-part course in practical philosophy, called Philosophies for Life. The pilot was financed by the Arts and Humanities Research Council via Queen Mary, University of London.  I trialled the course with three partner organizations: Saracens rugby club; New College Lanarkshire and HMP Low Moss prison; and Manor Gardens mental health charity.

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Where next for well-being policy?

I went to the book-launch of a new book on well-being policy yesterday, which brought together some leading figures in this nascent movement - including David Halpern of the government’s ‘nudge unit’, Canadian economist John Helliwell, psychologist Maurren O'Hara, and Juliet Michaelson of the new economics foundation.

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Wisdom, critical thinking, well-being or faith?

Apologies for the lack of newsletters recently - I’ve been in the depths of a project to design and teach a course based on Philosophy for Life. This month, I started teaching it in three organizations - a mental health charity in London called Manor Gardens; Saracens rugby club; and Low Moss prison in Glasgow (via New College Lanarkshire, which runs learning courses there).

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Can governments cultivate love in their citizens?

Should liberal governments try to cultivate certain emotional states in their citizens? In Political Emotions: Why Love Matters for Justice, University of Chicago philosopher Martha C. Nussbaum argues that liberal political philosophers, from John Locke to John Rawls, have dangerously ignored ‘the political cultivation of emotion’, failing to explore how governments can encourage pro-social emotions like love, patriotism and tolerance, while curbing anti-social emotions like envy, shame and excessive fear.

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Postcard from Antwerp

I'm writing this from a cafe in Antwerp, at the end of my first mini book tour abroad, having spent the last week doing talks and interviews in Amsterdam and Antwerp. My Dutch publisher, Regine, has been putting a lot into the promotion here - there’s even going to be a poster campaign around the country.

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PoW: Mutual aid in public health: back to the 19th century?

There's a new spirit of self-help and mutual improvement blowing through public health policy. I first felt its breeze in Scotland's national mental health strategy, which was published in August, and which made much of its 'person-centred approach' to mental health in Scotland.

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Set the controls for the heart of happiness

The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed there was no newsletter last weekend. Apologies. The reason for this is I have journeyed deep into the warm, pulsating heart of the happiness movement.

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