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Lennon-Patience, S. (2013). Measuring a Nation's Well-Being: A Psycho-Cultural Investigation. Free Associations, 14(1):14-36.

(2013). Free Associations, 14(1):14-36


Measuring a Nation's Well-Being: A Psycho-Cultural Investigation

Siobhan Lennon-Patience

This paper investigates the cultural, social and political contexts of the Prime Minister, David Cameron's proposal to measure the Well-being of the UK population. I adopt a psycho-cultural approach whereby theories and methods from the disciplines of psychoanalytic and psychosocial studies are combined with those from the fields of media and cultural studies. The paper includes relevant case study material taken from the UK press, television, documents and artefacts within popular culture. From this investigation, I provide a critical cultural analysis and contextualisation of the proposal to measure Well-being. This comprises an examination of recurring themes and discourses in those texts, linking them with cultural movements and histories. I explore the position of Well-being measurement in terms of the contemporary psychosocial debates about the nature of ‘therapy culture’. I suggest that the current exposition of Well-being measurement, as deployed by David Cameron, is underpinned by a culturally powerful therapeutic discourse, comprised of a version of self-help therapy culture that has an undercurrent of neoliberal pro-market values. This discourse has been strategically applied by the current government as a means of situating the locus of responsibility for personal Well-being firmly on the individual. This investigation forms a new intervention in contemporary psychosocial debates about the nature and value of ‘therapy culture’ and is a contribution to the development of a psycho-cultural studies approach.

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