South Africa: Marx, Buddha and the Pursuit of Happiness


In a time of global crisis, there is a need for activists to think outside traditional ideologies of the left and advocate for new ways to measure human development - based on well-being and happiness rather than narrow economic 'values' such as gross domestic product. South Africa could follow in the footsteps of several countries that have introduced new concepts of value.

Across the world, development and economics are based on a growth paradigm that is based on the gross domestic product (GDP) index, which measures the total value of goods and services per annum, using market prices. What cannot be measured through the market, therefore, is not valued. This includes the informal economy, care work and gifts, as well as the natural environment.

What boosts GDP, on the other hand, can include economic activities which are environmentally destructive (such air, sea, land and water pollution from mining, manufacturing and motor cars, including massive amounts of plastic waste in the oceans).

Ironically, GDP is also boosted if society is socially dysfunctional - for example when high rates of crime require that people purchase private security services; and high pollution necessitates access to healthcare that increases costs. This problem has been...

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