On Well-Being and Social Justice: The Case for an Objective Account

Friday, 3 July 2015: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
TW2.1.03 (Tower Two)
Annie Austin, University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom
The question ‘Equality of what?’ has been fiercely debated in political philosophy, as well as in real world politics. What should egalitarians focus on, and what should be measured in order to evaluate social justice? One possible answer is that the right metric is well-being. However, well-being can be conceptualised in various ways, and different definitions are not neutral with respect to social justice. This paper develops a categorisation of Subjective-Instrumental-Monist and Objective-Intrinsic-Pluralist accounts of well-being, and shows the different implications for a theory of justice. The Subjective-Instrumental-Monist account is rejected in favour of an Objective-Intrinsic-Pluralist account, and the argument is illustrated with data on well-being trends in the UK during the recent economic crisis. The article concludes that an objective-intrinsic-pluralist account of well-being, such as the Capabilities Approach, is needed to provide a firm foundation for defining and evaluating progress towards social justice.