The Good Life: Aspiration, Dignity, and the Anthropology of Wellbeing

The Good Life: Aspiration, Dignity, and the Anthropology of Wellbeing

Edward F. Fischer

Language: English

Pages: 280

ISBN: 0804792534

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

What could middle-class German supermarket shoppers buying eggs and impoverished coffee farmers in Guatemala possibly have in common? Both groups use the market in pursuit of the "good life." But what exactly is the good life? How do we define wellbeing beyond material standards of living? While we all may want to live the good life, we differ widely on just what that entails.

In The Good Life, Edward Fischer examines wellbeing in very different cultural contexts to uncover shared notions of the good life and how best to achieve it. With fascinating on-the-ground narratives of Germans' choices regarding the purchase of eggs and cars, and Guatemalans' trade in coffee and cocaine, Fischer presents a richly layered understanding of how aspiration, opportunity, dignity, and purpose comprise the good life.

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block away, frequented by groups of unemployed men drinking beer or schnapps, as well as kids playing soccer and scrambling on the monkey bars. On Fridays the park is taken over by the weekly market, with farmers, butchers, and other vendors from the surrounding countryside filling the Stefansplatz. Within a few blocks, there are a public school, a library, businesses, and apartment houses. Our sample reflects the range of standard income categories for Germany, tilted slightly toward the lower

profit because their debt is guaranteed by their respective local and regional governments, giving them superior credit ratings and access to capital at below-market rates. But that changed in 2005, when, owing to EU ruling, their debt stopped being backed by the government guarantees. From a free-market perspective, this was a much-needed reform—the Sparkassen distort the market through their unfair advantage. Now they have to pay market prices for their capital, and pass those costs along to

others is crucial to subjective wellbeing. Our reaction to what we perceive to be unfair inequalities is almost visceral (de Waal 2009), and this may be magnified by the relational and symbolic values of positional goods (Frank 2010). To the extent that fairness overlaps with greater material equality, it is associated with better health, security, and education (Wilkinson and Pickett 2009). Among Maya coffee growers in Guatemala, dignity is associated with control over land and productive

smallholding coffee producers in the Guatemalan town of San Juan La Laguna, Sarah Lyon (2011: 6). reports that locals refer to the new coffee production as “‘the bomb’ that exploded in the community, bringing income that enabled families to end their seasonal migration to lowland plantations, build cement-block houses, and educate their children.” Lyon points out the power inequities and flaws in even fair trade coffee practices, but she also finds that coffee is valued by most growers as an

years of education Catholic (self-identified) Tecpán (2003, n = 76) Chisec (2004, n = 70) 8.6 1.8 49% 43% Kaqchikel or Q’eqchi’ monolingual 2.5% 61% Community socio-economic status High Low Community market integration High Low 69% See positive economic future for themselves 51% Negative opinion of national government 78% 37% Negative opinion of municipal government 72% 46% Democracy working “well” or “very well” 3% 34% increased dramatically in recent years, largely

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