Wednesday, April 20, 2011

well-being and public policy: lifeworld and system

April 19 — 7:30 pm

Thinking about the relationship of well-being and public policy has become very important in a lot of venues, I believe. One might hope that if social philosophy has any usefulness, it contributes to progressing the relationship between well-being and public policy. So, thinking about lifeworld and system relative to the real world might be well exemplified by applying that to a real context. Outgrowing contexts of decades past doesn’t change the importance of conceptual issues for real issues of the present, if the conceptual resources are really important.

So, what counts as exemplary? Probably a context that one is easily unable to address (which is easily the case for me), even as one recognizes the level of engagement that a real public policy issue is. 

I find the following very interesting and important: “Accountable Care Organizations and Community Empowerment.” I doubt that many Habermas list subscribers will find that interesting, but it’s a good challenge to a reader to appreciate what the reality of leading-edge public policy questions in the U.S. is like. 

I share this because I’m very interested in issues of well-being. And I want to better understand real issues of public policy. I share the above as a student of public policy, in the citizen sense of ‘student.’

The recent book Habermas and Rawls: Disputing the Political contains a “Reply to my Critics” by Habermas which seems to be a good baseline for understanding his approach to political theory as moral philosophy.

I’m especially interested in the relationship of “ethical-existential” issues and what Habermas calls specifically “moral” issues. I’m disappointed that JH shies away from the ethical, but that’s not surprising in his discussion which is centered on responding to others’ recycling of his comments on Rawls. Especially important, though, is JH there certifying what work is most important to his view of moral philosophy. Importantly, he emphasizes that his essay on a “discourse ethic” (middle of Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action, German, 1983/English, 1990) is not sufficient for understanding his view. He seems to find his essay on the “Genealogy of Moral Cognition...” (Inclusion of the Other, Eng. 1998) especially important.

April 20

Via the Habermas list, Alastair Kemp wrote “...a good place to start could be the mental health policy New Horizons [which I've obtained], that the previous labour government in the UK produced as a probe into how to apply well-being,…”

Interesting. If you search ‘well-being’ in this document, you get a set of contexts that nicely express what is involved in relating a notion of well-being to public policy, especially (in this case) relative to giving mental health much-deserved attention in the conception of public health.  

Going off on my own now…. One could well argue that mental health (e.g., constructive, sustainable motivation) is the basis for self-sustaining physical health (e.g., giving values of prevention and self-management important, orienting place in one’s life), sustaining success in education (e.g., regarding life as a venture of learning that never ends), creating good adaptability for an ever-changing world of work, and enjoying engagement in public life (e.g., becoming and remaining an informed voter). Sustainable, constructive motivation is vital to a good life, and notions of well-being are about that.

I could argue that rights depend on the goods that keep rights alive. Needing law to protect rights is compensatory for a lack of support for rights by persons’ activities (or acquiescence to power violating rights). There are no rights without the goods that give rights life. From an abstractly systemic perspective, the thin domain of minimal, enforced rights trump goods only because rights ensure the goods that makes a life worthwhile. But the advance of rights and ensurance of rights depends on goods. From the perspective of the lives that have rights, goods trump rights, because there are no living rights without the goods that give rights importance and sustain them.

So, the so-called neo-Aristotelian approach to ethical life (e.g., Martha Nussbaum) trumps the neo-Kantian approach inasmuch as capabilities and goods are the conditions for the possibility of real rights (and ethical life is the condition for the possibility of moral cognition having importance worth supporting and advancing).

I still believe that Habermas’ sense of morality is compensatory for failures of ethical life. That’s clear, to me, from his discussion of the difference between ethical life and moral cognition. Moral cognition serves ethical life, not the converse. We have moral imperatives (which are minimalist regulatives) for the sake of advancing and sustaining meaningful, engaged, fulfilling lives—for the sake of active, constructive well-being.

“…[I]n fact one could almost overlay a map of New Horizons over old liberal utilitarian concepts from that time.”

The field of positive psychology has taken notions of happines far beyond ultilitarian notions. For example: Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology and  Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology and Work.

“…[I]ts worthwhile looking at what the conservative government then has done, with its attacks on the welfare state, scaremongering of the poor, [….and then] stripp[ing] back the New Horizons, to leave the idea of measurement of well-being (more directly happiness here), before attempting to rebuild it without the liberal progressive policy elements.”

That would be interesting to better understand, for my part in comparison to the sojourn of welfare policy in the U.S. (which I don’t know lots about). One problem that progressive policy has is reliable indicators of when and how policies are effective, so issues of metrics or assessment are very important to justifying costs to budgeting processes. I see this especially prominent in efforts of U.S. education reform (which I do know lots about), where conservatives have substituted obsessions with assessment for constructive interventions. However, the progressives didn’t have good assesment processes for their policies, and that gave conservatives a near-term edge. Now, assesment is much better, and progressive policies are easier to justify budgeting, though there’s currently little budget for the policies. But conservatives and liberals can agree that competition for funds can be as good for welfare policy (“welfare-to-work” policies of the Clinton administration onward) as for educational reform (current Obama administration policies).

August 31, 2013

This topic of interest goes back many years, including late 2004, and it’s growing today as my…

April 3, 2017: …“advancing community” project.