What Crisis?: Wellbeing and the Australian quality of life

February 24, 2011

Progressive Economics

By Tim Soutphommasane

In this paper, Tim Soutphommasane examines state of Australia’s quality of life, and finds that, despite concerns, Australians have very little reason to feel a sense of crisis.

While rising costs of energy bills, food and petrol, traffic congestion and longer working hours make headlines, the United Nations Development Programme’s annual study of global wellbeing places Australia very close to the top, showing Australia’s quality of life is strong. Any sense of crisis about liveability seems to reflect two things: 1) aspirational anxiety about the maintenance of prosperity; and 2) a cultural understanding of a good quality of life which emphasizes the sunkissed, suburban Australian lifestyle.

This paper argues that it is important to understand quality of life as something related to a broader conception of wellbeing. Rather than an end in and of itself, quality of life represents some of the social conditions that are required for individual flourishing. The paper proposes a progressive ethics of wellbeing, built upon a social democratic understanding of social justice and freedom.