Saargemuender Str. 2
German Institute for Japanese Studies (DIJ), Japanese-German Center Berlin (JDZB)
Happiness – Does Culture Matter?
November 21 - November 22, 2011
The happiness-income paradox has scholarship for close to four decades, but the dispute how it should be interpreted has not been finally settled. Japan is a case in point of major interest. From the ruins of World War II Japan rose to the top. Income per person increased manifold, but the average reported happiness did not. Other developed countries had a similar experience, but Japan was the first non-Western country to join the group of prosperous nations.
Various statistics support the assumption that the prosperity of a country does not go hand in hand with the level of happiness of its inhabitants. How significant, then, is material comfort and prosperity for individual members of a society and to what degree does it influence their subjective well-being? Over the years, the discussion of this question has given rise to the new field of happiness studies. Although it is routinely acknowledged that happiness depends on many factors, theories of happiness are typically grounded in Western ideas of progress and fulfilment. Since the French and American revolutions and since industrialization it is taken for granted that happiness does not arrive, but must be pursued through effort. Does this approach hold in other cultural contexts?
Japan, notwithstanding its rapid and categorical modernisation and Westernization in the Meiji period, is deeply indebted to East Asian cultural traditions which continue to inform its hypermodern society today. In the past, Asian cultures have not emphasized personal happiness as much as European cultures. At present, however, the promise of and call for happiness is widespread in Japan. It is not least because of this apparent change that Japan’s concern with happiness is of special interest. The similarity of its socio-economic development to Western industrial nations paired with its different cultural background make Japan a prime example for the analysis of the specific role of culture in shaping notions of happiness.
By joining experts from the fields of economics, psychology, sociology, political science and cultural anthropology in an intensive discussion session, we hope to come to a better understanding of the functionings of happiness in an inter-cultural context.
The latest crises of capitalism have given the quest for a better theory of well-being more urgency.
Day 1 November 21st (Monday)
Lunch for Speakers and Organisers
Friederike BOSSE (JDZB)
Session 1: Meanings of Happiness in Cross-cultural Comparison
Gordon MATHEWS (Chinese University of Hong Kong)
Yukiko UCHIDA (Kyoto University)
Session 2 : Methodological Reflections: How to approach Happiness
Ruut VEENHOVEN (Erasmus University Rotterdam)
Neil THIN (University of Edinburgh)
Remarks on the “Study Commission on Growth, Wellbeing and Quality of Life”
Dr. Wolfram BACKERT (Secretariat, “Study Commission on Growth, Wellbeing and Quality of Life”)
Remarks on the “Working Gorup on Happiness” at the Cabinet’s Office
Yukiko UCHIDA (Kyoto University)
Discussion with Daniela KOLBE, MP
Day 2 November 22nd (Tuesday)
Session 3: Achievement of Happiness
Bruno FREY (University of Zurich)
Kate PICKETT (University of York)
Session 4: Case Studies
Dimitris BALLAS (University of Sheffield)
Session 5: Development, Social Progress and Happiness
Takayoshi KUSAGO (Kansai University)
Motoi SUZUKI (National Museum of Ethnology Osaka)