As developed economies with ageing populations, neither the UK nor Japan can expect rapid economic growth in coming years. In any case, the pressure placed by rapid growth on resources and natural environments is leading to an increasing focus among richer countries on enjoying the blessings they already have, rather than amassing more.
In economics there is rising interest in how to maximise happiness rather than just GDP. Religion and philosophy have always had plenty to say on this topic, and it raises questions across a broad range of areas. Should we seek contentment primarily through work, hobbies, or family life? Should education be mainly about equipping young people for work and creating good (or global) citizens? Is manufacturing (“monozukuri”) vital to a successful economy, or does the future lie in services, given that consumers have so many material possessions already? And what does “successful” actually mean?
Post-industrial societies seem to have reached a new phase in which they are focussing on issues such as community and sustainability, especially in post-disaster Japan. Our 2013 seminar series will consider the “search for contentment” in the UK and Japan.