Relational Wellbeing: A Theoretical and Operational Approach

Sarah White

Research output: Working paper / PreprintWorking paper

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Relational wellbeing is an emergent construct grounded in the interpretivist tradition in social science. It approaches people as subjects, and aims to understand the ways they see the world in as near to their own terms as possible. This contrasts with mainstream approaches to subjective dimensions of wellbeing in psychology and economics, which take a positivist approach, positioning people as objects, whose variability is to be investigated through observation rather than inter-­­locution. Since the recent upsurge in interest in wellbeing has focused on its subjective dimensions, or ‘happiness’, it seems paradoxical that the social science traditions that emphasise subjectivity should thus far have been marginalised in wellbeing debates. This paper draws together recent contributions which take a more relational, qualitative approach, as a step towards reversing this trend. The final section considers how relational wellbeing may be operationalised in policy and practice.

‘We are all the same, that is, human, in such a way that nobody is ever the same as anyone else who ever lived, lives, or will live.’ (Hannah Arendt 1958:7--­8 in Scott 2012:15)

Keywords relational wellbeing; subjective wellbeing; subjectivity; qualitative methods; policy and practice
Original languageEnglish
PublisherCentre for Development Studies, University of Bath
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2015

Publication series

NameBath Papers in International Development and Wellbeing


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