Cultural Participation, Relational Goods and Individual Subjective Well-Being: Some Empirical Evidence

This paper focuses on the role of cultural participation as a source of individual subjective well-being in terms of the sociability orientation of different cultural activities. In previous works, we have found a strong association between subjective well-being and cultural participation. Here, we want to test to what extent such as association can be ascribed to the fact that cultural participation allows individuals to engage in non instrumental forms of social interaction, which are conducive to genuine forms of interpersonal relations. The test is conducted through two different evidence bases: on a survey covering Italian population and focused on the relation between culture and well-being; and an online survey of experts, ranking the 14 culturally related activities of the previous survey in terms of their sociability orientation. Our findings show that cultural participation tends to be oriented preferentially toward relatively sociable activities, thereby contributing to the production of relational goods and social capital.

Article by Giorgio Tavano Blessi, Enzo Grossi, Pier Luigi Sacco, Giovanni Pieretti, Guido Ferilli
Published in Review of Economics & Finance: 1923-7529-2014-03-33-14

From the Conclusions (excerpt)
(…) Cultural experiences may then be much more than a pleasant way to spend leisure time. They may be important platforms for the development of individual dispositions and capabilities that may substantially expand the potential of self-determination, the strategies for the pursuit of life satisfaction, the articulation and adoption of lifestyle choices.
While obviously relational goods cannot be directly produced by the state, public action can avoid the growth-unhappiness paradox (Easterlin, 2005) and promote personal interactions in many important ways, for instance by providing meeting places, by regulating shopping hours, by fixing the maximum duration of the work week, by supporting the arts and sports, by careful urban planning aimed at reducing commuting time etc. In this new setting, culture has basically changed its role, from being a marginal aspect of individual and group activity mostly related to entertainment, to become intrinsically linked to main issues of social development, and by addressing an expanding set of policy targets.
Our paper suggests that apparent leisure activities like practicing a sport, reading a novel, attending museums or paintings exhibitions or even rock concerts may have non-negligible positive consequences both at the individual and at the social level. This evidence, once properly tested and corroborated, could have major effects on many current commonsense reasoning that are very popular in the public domain. Understanding it, and even more its implications, may play a decisive role in boosting or thwarting the developmental potential of culture in post-industrial societies.(…).

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