Gross National Happiness

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The underlying development philosophy of globalisation seeks to maximise happiness through the cultivation of a narrow
materialist self-interest and competitiveness, both at the level of the individual and at the level of the nation-state. Despite voluminous evidence that this growth-fixated model of
material economy polarises global well-being and seriously
undermines environmental security, most, in the developed
world at least, seem perfectly content to continue achieving happiness in irresponsible ways. This paper explores the
deeper dynamics of an economic ideology of which GNP is
only the most visible aspect and asks whether Bhutan’s
search for an alternative approach really entails the search for a more responsible form of happiness – one that
inherently involves a more compassionate mode of being in
the world. Using the Four Pillars of Gross National Happiness as a framework, it argues that the cultivation of a deeper
happiness lies in ensuring that the inter-dependent realms of culture, good governance, economy and the environment
remain in sustainable balance. If Buddhist understandings
are accurate, then on-going happiness can only be truly
found through this critical balancing. Thus, if a means for
measuring the vitality of these four components can be
developed then Bhutan can build a strong foundation for
genuinely advancing beyond the irresponsible and
unsustainable means employed by others in their search for a more fleeting form of satisfaction. But it is argued, if the maximisation of happiness at any cost is allowed to become
* Coordinator, Business, Society and Culture Programme at the University of Auckland, New Zealand.
Journal of Bhutan Studies
2
the overarching goal then the errors of western development
might be unintentionally replicated and Bhutan’s unique
potential to forge a more valuable direction be unfortunately squandered.
The Kingdom of Bhutan has long resisted being integrated
into other culture’s alien...
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