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Positive politics: Exploring the wellbeing implications of left-wing versus right-wing political agendas



The impact of politics on wellbeing has perennially been a topic of intense debate in society, and has more recently been a focus of concern in academia too. The current paper considers this academic literature, drawing it together under the proposed rubric of ‘positive politics,’ defined as the study of the impact of political policies and processes upon wellbeing. The aim of this presentation and of positive politics generally, is to encourage the use of wellbeing research to inform: (a) politicians and policy makers (with regard to policy making); and (b) citizens (with regard to democratic choices). To do this, the presentation offers a set of orienting analyses concerning the differences between left-wing and right-wing political perspectives. Rather than presenting left versus right as a unidimensional spectrum, the paper suggests that the left-right polarity plays out on multiple spectra. Twelve different spectra are identified, three of which are constructed as overarching, with the remainder positioned as subsidiary to these: attributions (encompassing justness and equality), locus of concern (encompassing taxation, welfare, and institutional balance), and directionality (encompassing religion, freedom, statehood, and immigration). The presentation explores the implications that different perspectives on these twelve spectra have for wellbeing, thereby setting out an agenda for further research into the impact of politics upon wellbeing.
Positive Politics
Tim Lomas
Proposal for a ‘new’ paradigm: the study of the impact of political policies and processes upon wellbeing
Incorporates existing work at the intersection of positive psychology and political psychology
Sets out an agenda for future research, with consequent policy recommendations and guidance
Initial orienting analysis: examining the differences between LW and RW political perspectives
Left vs. right polarity not a unidimensional spectrum, but plays out on multiple spectra
Symbolic spectra: underlying philosophical perspectives that help to create the LW-RW polarity
Operational spectra: the way these philosophical perspectives are manifested in policy.
Situational Dispositional
Just world?
Unjust Just
Unacceptable Acceptable
Locus of concern
Collective Individual
High Low
Welfare state
Strong Weak
Institutional balance
Public Private
Innovation Tradition
Secular Religious
Moral Economic
Internationalism Nationalism
Supportive Unsupportive
Individuals and political parties tend to skew to either LW or RW, but not uniformly so (i.e., on all 12 spectra)
This non-uniform alignment can create complications and seeming paradoxes
With each spectra there is likely to be an optimal point, somewhere along the axis, for wellbeing
These optimal points may vary according to contextual factors
Nevertheless, research can aim to identify where these optimal points are
Parties can then be encouraged to pursue evidence-based policies that benefit wellbeing
Lomas, T. (2018). Positive politics: Exploring the wellbeing implications of left-wing versus right-wing political agendas. In N. J. L. Brown, T. Lomas & F. Eiroa-Orosa
(Eds.), The Routledge International Handbook of Critical Positive Psychology- (pp. 351-367). Routledge: New York.
Full-text available
Although semiotics has historically been a focus of interest in psychology, its impact over recent decades has been fairly muted. Moreover, no systematic efforts have been made to study and understand it from a positive perspective, i.e., the way sign-systems are or can be “positive.” As such, this paper introduces the notion of “positive semiotics,” a label for the disparate research and theorising that is already underway across academia relating to this topic. The paper draws on the work of C. S. Peirce, particularly in terms of his triadic view of sign-systems as comprising a sign, an object, and an interpretant. The idea of positivity is then elucidated using the criterion of desirability, drawing on the work of James Pawelski. Attempts are also made to ascertain the nature of desirability, including normative forms (clarified here using the conceptual triad of goodness, truth, and beauty) and non-normative forms (understood as personal wants). The paper then considers four key semiotic channels – discursive language, body language, symbols, and art – looking at selective examples of how positive semiotics might pertain to that channel. It is hoped the paper will stimulate further interest in, and work on, a phenomenon that is of considerable importance to psychology and beyond.
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