What makes a good society? Happiness and the role of contextual and psychological factors
The wellbeing of individuals is one of the biggest aims of our times. If individuals’ wellbeing is a fundamental value, then the search for its determinants should be a global moral imperative. Even though it is commonplace today that the wellbeing of individuals in society depends on both individual and societal factors, much of the current research and theorizing has either focused on one or the other level of analysis. In this chapter, we argue that an integration of psychological and contextual factors is necessary in order to arrive at a better understanding of individuals’ wellbeing in different societies. We suggest that this integrated perspective should guide policy makers for assessing and benchmarking a good society and for developing interventions in order to improve wellbeing in society. We will focus on the role of income inequality and trust in institutions to illustrate our argument. We will discuss whether enhancing trust and equality should be a moral imperative for democratic societies today.