Wellbeing, Development and Social Change in Thailand

Published on 2 June 2008

Thailand has experienced economic and social transformation over a relatively short period of time and its experiences may offer salutary lessons for many other developing countries. However, the characteristics of Thailand’s transformation to modernity encourage us to consider new frameworks for analysing and understanding development and social change.

This paper presents a distinctive concept of wellbeing that can provide valuable new insights into development and social change for the social sciences and for policy makers. A social definition of wellbeing argues against a focus on ‘the individual’ and requires us to comprehend the profound interdependence of the person and their society. The definition does not equate wellbeing with a narrow conception of happiness, nor can it be indicated simply by wealth. It is a practical definition in that it can be operationalised for empirical research and by focusing on wellbeing as resulting from the interplay of needs met; freedoms to act, and satisfactions in achieving goals, the approach yields new interpretations of development problems.

The paper describes the research methodology that has been developed from this definition and summarises some of the results from two years of field-study in rural and urban communities in the Northeast and South of Thailand. In this paper we highlight the significance of a person’s primary location of residence not only for the wellbeing that the person is able to experience but also that they are able to conceive of. The paper concludes by recognising the clashes between different conceptions of and strategies for wellbeing that are often entailed in processes of development and social change and it highlights the policy and governance challenges that these represent for Thailand and other rapidly developing societies.

Source document can be found at: Faulty of Economics Thammasat University

Publication details

McGregor, J.A., Camfield, L., Masae, A., and Promphakping, B.
Thammasat Journal of Economics, volume 26, issue 2


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