Project Details


There is increasing concern in political circles, the media, and academia, about the rise of authoritarian populism worldwide and its association with misogyny, racism, and hatred of minorities.

A growing body of research indicates that authoritarian populism is, at least in part, a response to the last 50 years of neoliberal economic, social, and cultural policies which have created extreme levels of inequality, social division, and precarity across the globe, decimating communities, and creating living conditions that take a severe toll on physical and mental wellbeing.

The belief that there is no alternative (the ‘TINA’ doctrine) hinders development of state-level political practices that could protect democracy by seeking to respond to this decline. This impasse is further aggravated by the lack of conceptual work defining authoritarianism (commonly used to simply mean ‘anti-democratic‘); and by widespread disagreement concerning the relationship between, and means of measuring, authoritarianism, populism, and wellbeing.

Although research and policy work into human thriving, referred to as ‘wellbeing’, is a fast-growing field, its vision is still often dismissed as unrealistic, hampering attempts to translate conceptual research into policy solutions. However, far from a nostalgic turn to the past, today’s wellbeing discourse promises to update our conception of human flourishing as a resource to help collectively confront the challenges of the twenty-first century.

Noting that growing calls to attend to human wellbeing invoke the ethos of the twentieth-century welfare state, this network promotes ‘the wellbeing state’ as a democratic response to the global rise of authoritarian populism. We must attend more carefully to how we might support each other to thrive rather than just survive.

This network mobilises wellbeing research under the title ‘the wellbeing state’ as a framework for a robust, resilient democracy, able to withstand the threat of authoritarian populism.
Effective start/end date1/04/2431/03/26


  • AHRC


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