Individualism, corruption and happiness inequality

Nick Cowen

In April, Dr Nick Cowen presented the paper ‘Individualism, corruption and happiness inequality’ at the Sociological Forum at the University of Hong Kong. The paper considered the question of whether individualism fosters 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. Dr Cowen contributed to this debate in his paper by comparing levels of happiness inequality and corruption in culturally individualist and collectivist societies. He found that individualism reduces happiness inequality indirectly through reductions in corruption. He proposed this is due to individualist aversion to in-group favouritism.

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