Thursday, 7 May 2009

Why Are Conservatives Happier Than Liberals?

Digging around in the lower depths of my inbox, those bits and pieces that came and lay unloved for many months, I found this essay announcement, with abstract:

Why Are Conservatives Happier Than Liberals?
By Jaime L. Napier and John T. Jost

In this study, researchers drew on system-justification theory and the notion that conservative ideology serves a palliative function to explain why conservatives are happier than liberals. Specifically, in three studies using nationally representative data from the United States and nine additional countries, researchers found that right-wing (vs. left-wing) orientation is indeed associated with greater subjective well-being and that the relation between political orientation and subjective well-being is mediated by the rationalization of inequality. In a third study, they found that increasing economic inequality (as measured by the Gini index) from 1974 to 2004 has exacerbated the happiness gap between liberals and conservatives, apparently because conservatives (more than liberals) possess an ideological buffer against the negative hedonic effects of economic inequality.

(To read the article, go here, though you will need to subscribe or purchase the article.)

Just to summarise, conservative are apparently happier than liberals because they have in-built defences so that they don't feel bad about others' suffering. In Kleinian or more general object-relations terms, we might say that they are more successfully splitting; in particular, splitting feeling (and the capacity to empathise) from thought (i.e. the ideological justification for continuing to support a system that perpetrates inequality).

This is then evidence -- now apparently backed up by appropriately 'scientific' studies -- for a long-held
belief amongst a number of psycho-social thinkers that capitalism is psychopathological; schizoid, as a Kleinian might say. (Others, of different psychoanalytic persuasions, of course had different diagnostic categories, but they most often arrived at a similar conclusion.)

Such assessments are regarded unfashionable by some nowadays, but surely this gives us license to carry on with our speculations?

(NB: these studies were obviously conducted pre-crash -- I wonder if the results would be different were they to revisit these subjects?)

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