Participatory Wellbeing and Roles

Barber, Alex (2023). Participatory Wellbeing and Roles. In: Barber, Alex and Cordell, Sean eds. The Ethics of Social Roles. Oxford: Oxford Academic, pp. 278–297.



The wellbeing that can accrue to individuals through their participation in collective endeavours, here called their participatory wellbeing, is a fundamental component of human wellbeing more broadly. It is also difficult to conceptualize, let alone quantify, and has been neglected in philosophy, apparently falling into a gap between the literature on collective agency and the literature on wellbeing. As a contribution towards filling in that gap, this chapter uses the notion of a role within a group—encompassing anything from familial and professional roles to being a friend or a citizen—to solve a puzzle about participatory wellbeing. The puzzle, crudely stated, is that while wellbeing is an essentially individualistic notion, participation is essentially social. By conceiving of participation as a matter of occupying and performing a role, we can recognize and model the complexity (i.e. the multifaceted nature) of participatory wellbeing.

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