Sociological Forum (Spring 2020-2021) – Individualism, corruption and happiness inequality

By Nick Cowen, University of Lincoln

Tue 13 Apr 2021


Via Zoom:

Does individualism foster corruption and unhappiness? Many social critics across the political spectrum and the human sciences associate individualism with selfishness, arrogance, greed, possessiveness, impiety, and lack of social conscience. Classical liberals, by contrast, argue that individualism and “self-interest rightly understood” is the foundation of modern civil society. We contribute to this debate by comparing levels of happiness inequality and corruption in culturally individualist and collectivist societies. We find that individualism reduces happiness inequality indirectly through reductions in corruption. We propose this is due to individualist aversion to in-group favouritism

Nick Cowen is a senior lecturer in Criminology at the University of Lincoln. He wrote his doctoral dissertation at King’s College London on the political economy of distributive justice. He has a B.A. in Philosophy from University College London and an M.Phil. in Political Theory from the University of Oxford. He was a Fellow at the NYU School of Law from 2016 to 2019 and continues as a Program Affiliate Scholar. He has published research, among other places, in the American Journal of Political Science, The British Journal of Criminology, and Critical Review. His research explores the epistemic challenges of maintaining a stable society with minimal reliance on the exercise of power. His latest book, Neoliberal Social Justice, is published this year by Edward Elgar.

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