Knowledge: Wellbeing in global public policy

Jessica Pykett*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter considers the ways in which particular knowledge about behaviour and happiness acts as a surface through which social change can be facilitated. It outlines how particular insights from behavioural economics, neuroscience, and psychology have influenced global public policies promoting the measurement of subjective wellbeing, and examines some of the assumptions about habits, practices, agency, subjectivity, and culture which underpin these insights. It charts for the first time the emergence of ‘behavioural happiness’ – the promotion of subjective wellbeing through behavioural insights and policy design – as an object of public policy intervention. It compares this with an activist movement for a wellbeing-based economy. The chapter explores the ramifications of basing the policy goals of behavioural happiness on specific forms of knowledge which are from the behavioural, economic, and neurobiological sciences. In offering a contextual account of how behavioural happiness is made as an object of knowledge and governance, the chapter argues that in the sphere of wellbeing public policies, social research could focus more on the intersection between surface and substantive social change, and between individual and collective approaches to wellbeing.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Handbook of Social Change
EditorsRichard Ballard, Clive Barnett
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781351261562, 9781351261555
ISBN (Print)9780815365471, 9781032313818
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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