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THE GOOD LIFE AND THE GREATER GOOD IN A GLOBAL CONTEXT
full name / name of organization:
LAURA SAVU WALKER/ University of South Carolina, Columbia
I’m writing to invite you to submit proposals for a collection of essays that is tentatively titled The Good Life and the Greater Good in a Global Context. Please take a look at the brief description of the topic and the research questions below. Feel free to add any other comments and questions and let me know if you are interested in contributing. My own essay examines the transnational dimensions of “that moral-intimate-economic thing called ‘the good life’” (Berlant 2) as theorized by cultural critic Lauren Berlant and imagined by Pakistani novelist Mohsin Hamid in his latest novel, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia (2012).
Thank you, and I look forward to hearing from you. You may e-mail me your abstracts by Aug. 15 at email@example.com
Laura Savu, PhD
Answering the question “What Should We Be Worried About?” that John Brockman, publisher of Edge.org, posed to 150 influential minds in 2013, history professor David Christian wrote that we should be worried about “the real meaning of the good life” and, instead of confusing it with economic growth, we should “start imagining what a good life will look like in a world of limited resources” (109). On a more confident note, in their book How Much is Enough? Money and the Good Life, also from 2013, the father-son team of economic historians Robert and Edward Skidelsky maintain that we have “the materials for a universal inquiry into the good life, transcending limits of time and place. We are not doomed to a chauvinistic ‘clash of civilizations,’ mediated only by the rules of the market or by international treaties” (147). A similar sentiment was expressed by University of Pennsylvania psychologist Martin E.P. Seligman in a talk at APA’s 2011 Annual Convention: “The world is turning from a victimology, apology-oriented view of human nature . . . to aspirations about well-being and about flourishing.” “It’s in our hands,” Seligman added, “not only to witness this, but to take part in making this happen.”
But what exactly constitutes human flourishing? And under what conditions can the good life--indeed, the greater good--be achieved if our world continues to be fragmented and atomized, ravaged by violent conflicts, scarred by deepening socio-economic inequalities, and threatened by ecological disasters? The urgency of these questions—and of the task mentioned by Seligman—is borne out by recent scholarship and curricular trends—from numerous books that tap into the ancient wisdom about “the art of living” to dozens of college -level courses designed to help the “Selfie” generation “recognize, realize, and maximize” the good life (Berrett).
Seizing on this moment of anxiety and hope, the essay collection I am proposing aims to bring together scholars from a variety of disciplines to engage with the discourses and practices of the good life, understood in all of its dimensions—material, psychological, ethical, spiritual, etc. –and approached from historical, literary, and cultural perspectives. In addition to testing the truth and teasing out the implications of the statements cited above, a related goal is to attend to the intersection of gender, race, and class within the notion of the good life by analyzing how writers and artists have envisioned “the good society, a society hospitable to the humanity of its members” (Bauman, Liquid Times 107).
A few possible lines of inquiry might include: What is “the good life”? How has it been conceptualized and/or imagined over time? What set of values distinguishes the modern version of the good life from the classical version(s)? What values have endured in our rapidly changing global landscape? What choices, commitments, and challenges does the good life involve? Is there a universal formula for the good life? What is the relationship between “the good life” and “the greater good?” How are both shaped by relations of power, different ideologies, and moral visions? In what ways does globalization impact the achievement of the good life? How has the good life been represented in literature, the arts, and the media?