The Good Life and the Greater Good in a Global Context

4 replies, 3 voices Last updated by Laura E. Savu 8 years, 7 months ago
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    Laura E. Savu

    Dear colleagues,

    I’m writing to invite you to submit proposals for a collection of essays that is tentatively titled The Good Life and the Greater Good in a Global Context. The essays need to focus on the discourses and practices of the good life, understood in all of its dimensions—material, psychological, ethical, spiritual, etc. –and approached from historical, literary, and cultural perspectives. One of the main goals of the study is to test the truth and tease out the implications of a statement made by the father-son team of economists Robert and Edward Skidelsky in their 2013 book How Much Is Enough? Money and the Good Life: “We have, then, the materials for a universal inquiry into the good life, transcending limits of time and place. We are not doomed to a chauvinistic ‘clash of civilizations,’ mediated only by the rules of the market or by international treaties” (147). A related goal is to analyze how writers and artists have envisioned “the good society, a society hospitable to the humanity of its members” (Bauman, Liquid Times 107).

    Please take a look at the brief description of the rationale and the research questions below. Feel free to add any other comments and questions and let me know if you are interested in contributing and/or co-editing such a study with me. My own essay examines the transnational foundations of “that moral-intimate-economic thing called ‘the good life’” (Berlant 2) as theorized by cultural critic Lauren Berlant and imagined by Pakistani novelist Mohsin Hamid in his latest novel, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia (2012).

    A potential publisher for the collection is Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

    Thank you, and I look forward to hearing from you.


    Topic Proposal

    “The world is turning from a victimology, apology-oriented view of human nature . . . to aspirations about well-being and about flourishing,” University of Pennsylvania psychologist Martin E.P. Seligman said in a talk at APA’s 2011 Annual Convention. “It’s in our hands,” he added, “not only to witness this, but to take part in making this happen.” But what exactly constitutes human flourishing? And under what conditions can the good life–indeed, the greater good–be achieved if our world continues to be fragmented and atomized, ravaged by violent conflicts, scarred by deepening socio-economic inequalities, and threatened by ecological disasters? The urgency of these questions is borne out by recent scholarship and curricular trends—from numerous books that tap into the ancient wisdom about the art of living to dozens of college -level courses designed to help the “Selfie” generation “recognize, realize, and maximize” the good life (Berrett).

    Among the questions that could be considered are: What is “the good life”? How has it been conceptualized and/or imagined over time? What set of values distinguishes the modern version of the good life from the ancient version(s)? What choices, commitments, and challenges does the good life involve? Is there a universal formula for the good life? What is the relationship between the good life and “the greater good?” How are both shaped by relations of power, different ideologies, and moral visions? In what ways does globalization impact the achievement of the good life? How has the good life been represented in literature, the arts, and the media?


    Charles Whitney

    Hi Laura,

    Thanks for developing this topic.  I would be interested in writing on “the good life” as it is addressed by economists and others offering proposals about how to deal with global warming, particularly concerning attitudes toward future economic growth.  In my admittedly limited experience, mainstream economists don’t go much beyond the aim of securing people’s material needs when they consider the goals of mitigating and adapting to global warming.  Neither does “radical centrist” sociologist Anthony Giddens in The Politics of Climate Change, which distinguishes between “welfare” (the proper goal) and “well-being,” attributable to “the greens.”  On the other hand, ecological economists and all the many writers influenced by the classic Limits to Growth tend to make lifestyle and values changes central.  And while the latter criticize the former, the former, who wield more power with elites, often ignore the latter (but Giddens doesn’t).  Some European and British economists as well as official reports like those of the IPCC, however, seem to be edging toward taking growth limits more seriously, partly because economic growth has been swamping the positive effects of all measures to reduce GHG emissions.  As averting the crisis of global warming becomes more problematic, the question of the good life–“well-being”–becomes the (unquantifiable) nub.  A literary tie-in would be either or both contemporary cli-fi and pre- or early modern English attitudes related to ethics and economics, as in Thomas More, Shakespeare, Milton, etc.

    Prof. Charles Whitney                                                                                                                                                                                    English Dept, University of Nevada, Las Vegas


    Laura E. Savu

    Dear Prof. Whitney,

    Thank you for your prompt reply and especially for your interest in this project. Your proposal sounds very promising as no viable notion of the good life can be conceived without taking into account its complicated relationship with economic growth. If I’m not mistaken, The Skidelskys, whom I cite in my brief description of the topic, are also influenced by the Limits to Growth model; their argument against “insatiability” involves the recognition that the good life cannot be measured solely in terms of economic growth. As someone writing for the Guardian claimed in an article last year, the limitless growth model is in fact–or in many ways–anti-life.

    It’s too early to tell how the collection will shape up, but if you could spread the word about it and find other scholars interested in contributing, I would really appreciate it. The more perspectives we can bring to bear on this topic, the better.
    You may e-mail me your abstract at by Aug. 15.

    Kind regards,


    • This reply was modified 8 years, 7 months ago by Katina Rogers. Reason: Removed formatting code

    Joe Lockard

    Private correspondence resulting from a CFP is inconsiderate use of a shared common forum.  These messages go to 155 forum participants, not simply to the corresponding parties.  Thanks for understanding.


    Laura E. Savu

    Please accept my apologies, Joe Lockard. It was my first time using this forum.

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