Project

History and Future of the Concept of Quality-of-Life

Goal: Reconstruction of how the concept quality-of-life developed in the 60ies in the USA and spilled over the ocean to Germany and Austria

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Project log

Alban Knecht
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The question of what constitutes a good life has long preoccupied people. The question of what responsibility the state has in this regard is not new either, as e.g. the discourse on bliss (“Glückseeligkeit”) after 1750 shows. With the term “base of life” (“Lebensboden”), Otto Neurath (1981 [1931]) addresses the biological foundations of existence. Nevertheless, the term quality of life, beyond an early, medical eugenics discourse (cf. Kovács 2021), and a use by Pigou (1924, p. 14), who already used the term to distinguish “non-economic” from “economic welfare” (see also Knecht 2010), only became popular long after the Second World War. In his work “The affluent society” (1958), the American economist John Kenneth Galbraith analysed a prevailing disproportion between private wealth and public poverty in the USA, which was suboptimal for citizens and society. Galbraith used the term quality of life in this sense in an article in July 1964 (Galbraith 1964), even before Lyndon B. Johnson, for whom Galbraith had worked as a consultant, used it in the election campaign on the oc-casion of his nomination as a presidential candidate in August 1964 (cf. Knecht 2010, p. 17 f.) ...
Alban Knecht
added a project reference
Alban Knecht
added 14 research items
The concept of quality of life was developed in the US during the midst of the ‘60s to describe welfare in a more comprehensive way as by the gross national product (GDP). It arrived in Germany beginning in the ‘70s. This concept, which originally was used to describe society on a macro level, fell into oblivion when the oil crisis threatened the growth of the economies. In the ‘80s Amartya Sen took on the concept of quality of life. He related it to socio-epidemiological research by using longevity and mortality as indicators for quality of life. He was able to show that per capita income does not correlate highly with the average life expectancy when applying international macro data. He infers from this the importance of socio-political interventions; however, he forgets to consider the underlying proceedings in detail. Considering this the question arises how state interventions produce its citizens’ quality of life. I have inquired the question of the production of quality of life by the welfare state in three steps: 1.) In the first step I deal with the question of how quality of life can be ade-quately described. It appears that expectancy of life is a sensible outcome measurement for quality of life. Empirical surveys show that when quality of life is defined that way its extension depends on the endowment with resources and the capability to use these resources (Sens functionings). Thus quality of life can be described by the endowment with resources and functionings / capabilities. 2.) The second step concerns the role of the political and cultural frame of the production of quality of life. Against the background of a cultural shaped under-standing of what politics should aim at (quality of life, well-being, welfare or eco-nomic growth), the factual extension of quality of life policy is determined by political conflicts. From this point of view, welfare regimes can be understood as typical approaches to the question of welfare production, meaning certain styles of quality-of-life policies which broadly influence the lives of the a nation’ citizens. 3.) The question of which consequences political measures have exactly on individuals is the focus of the third step. A micro-macro model was developed for the depiction of the mode of effectiveness that describes the state production of quality of life by the distribution of resources and capabilities/functionings to the individuals. How the distribution of resources (like education, income, good health, social capital or psychic capital) works empirically, is shown through concrete examples. The state influences their quality of life and their life opportunities as the extension of poverty in a society by the unequal distribution of resources and capabilities to certain population groups. Eventually, the model enables the effects to be depicted comprehensively. The consideration of all relevant resources and the inclusion of the capabilities/ functionings allows for the analysis of the structure and (re)production of social inequality, of quality of life, and even of distinction (Bourdieu) in one model. Particularly, dynamic aspects of poverty, its genesis, consolidation, and con-stancy can better be understood. Hence, not only can questions of distribution and justice be discussed in a broader manner—with the resource theory the connection between educational and psychic resources in an educational system, which is made for ‘selection’ and stratification, can be formulated as a social problem. The importance of the development of these resources from early childhood on will be shown in the dissertation in the frame of the early intervention state model.
Zwei wissenschaftliche Disziplinen setzen sich mit der Messung von Wohlfahrt auseinander: Die Soziologie und die Ökonomie. In der Soziologie beschäftigen sich die Sozialstrukturanalyse und die Soziologie sozialer Ungleichheit mit der Messung von Wohlfahrt, wobei insbesondere die Verteilung von Wohlfahrt sowie die Entstehung und Stabilität sozialer Ungleichheit im Mittelpunkt des Interesses stehen. Ihre Konzepte Stände, Klassen, Schichten sowie Lebenslagen, Milieus und Lebensstile gehen geschichtlich gesehen auf gesellschaftsanalytisch und politisch motivierte Beschreibungen von sozialer Ungleichheit zurück (Hradil 2001: Kap. 5.8). Empirische Untersuchungen dieser Tradition beschreiben typischerweise Ungleichheiten zwischen Menschen oder Gruppen innerhalb einer Nation in unterschiedlichen Dimensionen.3 In dem Standardwerk Soziale Ungleichheit in Deutschland führt Hradil (2001) „klassische Dimensionen“ ein – materieller Wohlstand, Macht und Prestige – die durch Dimensionen wie Bildung, Gesundheit sowie „Arbeits-, Wohn-, Umwelt- und Freizeitbedingungen“(Hradil 2001: 31) ergänzt werden. Die Ökonomie beschreibt Wohlfahrt gewöhnlich mit Hilfe von Konzepten der Lebensstandard-Messung, die die Wohlfahrt oder den Wohlstand verschiedener Länder anhand des Bruttoinlandsproduktes und ähnlicher Kennzahlen vergleicht. Hier wird mit Durchschnittswerten wie dem durchschnittlichen Pro-Kopf-Einkommen gerechnet. Die Verteilung des Einkommens innerhalb einer Nation spielt dabei kaum eine Rolle.
In this chapter, the key messages and policy implications arising from the chapters making up this volume are drawn together. The research demonstrates the need to increase the development of young people’s agency and voice, and to put it at the centre of policy design, implementation and evaluation. Currently young people often feel undermined by not being given the opportunity to be listened to by policy-makers. This volume highlights the value provided by the Capability Approach in offering a framework for addressing youth inequalities that goes beyond current European and national level approaches. The Capability Approach takes a more encompassing view of what is entailed by youth empowerment and participation in society. By applying the Capability Approach, this volume reveals the necessity to develop a more holistic youth policy in which the individual context, as well as the processes and outcomes of youth programmes, are taken into consideration without neglecting heterogeneous values and life aspirations. The goal is to allow genuine individual agency and promote participation and voice instead of imposing predefined goals, and working together among young people and among different levels of administration.
Alban Knecht
added a project goal
Reconstruction of how the concept quality-of-life developed in the 60ies in the USA and spilled over the ocean to Germany and Austria