Chapter 43Positive Social Planning

NEIL THIN

Social planners at all levels worldwide have been taking inspiration from both the positivity and the subjectivism of the positive psychology (PP) movement. Referred to here as positive social planning, this movement is emerging as a disparate set of practices sharing a common interest in the understanding and promotion of social goods, and in people's subjective experience and evaluation of them. This could be strengthened, first, by ethical recognition of the intrinsic value of social goods, as distinct from their instrumental value in facilitating happiness. Second, planners will need systematic description and analysis of social goods and of their interaction with mental goods: A social well-being matrix is recommended here as a simple tool for distinguishing core categories of social quality at all levels. Third, this chapter explores two kinds of normative implication: the importance of systematic appreciation of happiness and social goods as a route to empathy, and the translation from this into better policy and practice. Finally, the Bhutanese Gross National Happiness movement is offered as a case study in the development of these ethical, descriptive-analytical, and normative shifts.

When we ask ourselves, “What matters?” rather than the habitual “What is the matter?” our positive concern can go in two directions: inward, to inspect our mental goods and strengths, and outward, to appraise our social and physical environments ...

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