Some Themes in the Discussion of the Quality of Life

Inge Røpke

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    Abstract This paper is motivated by the need to discuss the quality of life as a part of the background for devising environmental strategies. When environmental strategies are devised, it is often more or less tacitly assumed that we should try to avoid measures that imply a decrease in the level of consumption, and sometimes it is even assumed that the continued growth of consumption in the affluent societies must not be threatened. The underlying idea is that consumption is the most important determinant of welfare. The paper intends to provide a critical perspective on this underlying idea. The critical perspective is developed by dealing with welfare or the quality of life: what does it mean to have a good life? On the basis of this discussion, the relationship between consumption and welfare can then be assessed. The approach to the discussion of the quality of life in this paper is first of all abstract and theoretical, as a number of different theoretical themes are dealt with. It is not a concrete analysis of present life patterns, but at the end of the paper there are a few suggestions as to how the themes can inspire a concrete debate. The paper has three main sections. First, some background considerations are outlined regarding the reasons for considering growing consumption as a problem, the need to form political strategies, and the problems related to the establishment of points of reference for the necessary political discussion. The second main section of the paper deals with the different themes in the discussion of the quality of life. The point of departure is taken in some critical considerations related to the traditional conceptualization of welfare. After that, some inspiration from the debate on basic needs is outlined and supplemented with some reflections on the dual character of needs. Finally, the collective dimension is included as a part of the conceptualization of a good life. In the third main section, the themes are summarized as a critical perspective on the traditional idea of consumption and welfare, and suggestions are made about how the themes can inspire a more concrete discussion.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationSustainability in Question. The Search for a Conceptual Framework
    EditorsJ Köhn, J Gowdy, F Hinterberger, J van der Straaten
    Place of PublicationCheltenham, UK
    PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing
    Publication date1999
    Publication statusPublished - 1999

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