Pursuing Quality of Life
From the Affluent Society to the Consumer Society
From anxieties over work-life balance and entangling technologies, to celebrations of cool jobs and great places to live, quality of life frames the ways we enhance our lives and legitimate social change today. But how does the idea of quality of life envision the greater good, and what gets lost as a result?
This book provides the critical framework for understanding the idea’s contexts and tensions that are conspicuously missing in popular discussions, professional activities, and scholarly research on quality of life. With multiple case studies taken across North America and Europe, it provides a sociological perspective on the contradictory ways we talk about and pursue quality of life in relation to technology, consumerism, family, work, public space, rural ways of life, and ultimately the final years of life. Drawing on contemporary and classical social theory, it provides an incisive account of the historical shifts in developed societies over the last half-century that have transformed our views and pursuits of quality of life. Originally a promise to undertake collective effort and pursue social justice at a moment of unprecedented opportunity, quality of life now enshrines a solipsistic ideal with which to accommodate the storms of market forces and political failure.
Table of Contents
1. Conceptual Origins 2. Intellectual History 3. Technology 4. Family 5. Work 6. Place 7. Politics 8. Futures
Leonard Nevarez is an associate professor of sociology at Vassar College. He is the author of New Money, Nice Town: How Capital Works in the New Urban Economy (2003).
"In this highly original book, Leonard Nevarez examines the meaning of quality of life through a variety of lenses. In particular he focuses on the structural shift around the world toward individualism and its implications for place making and social organization. The book is an exceptional contribution to the literature on social organization, political sociology, and urban sociology."—Susan Fainstein, Urban Planning and Design, Harvard University
"This is an extremely timely book. It draws on the best of sociology to understand our condition, and asks how it can be bettered."—Amitai Etzioni, International Affairs, George Washington University
"As even economists come to understand the limits of Gross National Product and personal income levels in determining human well-being, there is a new emphasis on terms like "happiness" and "quality of life," as ways to measure progress. This book makes it clear that consumerism in all its forms is not the way to a better world; scholars and laypersons alike will benefit from reading it."—John de Graaf, Co-director of The Seattle Area Happiness Initiative
"Vassar sociologist Nevarez wants to take the concept of 'quality of life' beyond the individual and subjective contexts in which it is normally used and apply it in a collective and objective way....Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students/faculty."—CHOICE, B. Weston, Centre College, USA