Special Section: Degrowth, culture and power, edited by Lisa L. Gezon and Susan Paulson

Gross National Happiness: meaning, measure and degrowth in a living development alternative



Narrow framings of development founded on GDP growth have led to multiple ecological, social and political-economic crises across the world that threaten the survival of humans and socio-ecologies. With the growing recognition that an expansionist trajectory is no longer viable, a burgeoning global discussion on degrowth has emerged. However, a limited number of living societal solutions exist in response the emergent crisis of over-consumption, deep inequality and resource depletion. The driving development philosophy of Gross National Happiness from the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan is a unique living alternative that challenges GDP metrics. With societal happiness as the primary lens for viewing human progress within planetary limits, GNH places socio-cultural, political-economic and spiritual-ecological wellbeing at the center of national development. Based on five years of research in Bhutan, the article discusses GNH as a holistic development alternative in relation to degrowth. It highlights the role of local insights, conceptual innovations, tested methodologies and policy experiences in constructing a unique society, as well as how GNH influences other nations and global debates. The article reflects on challenges that GNH faces in negotiating powerful forces of globalization, geopolitical shifts, climate change and skewed relations of power and privilege that influence scholarship, development and knowledge production.

Keywords: Gross National Happiness, degrowth, holistic development, Bhutan

How to Cite: Verma, R. (2017) “Gross National Happiness: meaning, measure and degrowth in a living development alternative”, Journal of Political Ecology. 24(1). doi: https://doi.org/10.2458/v24i1.20885