Research

My research is motivated by the desire to better understand what good development is about and how to get it under way.

My research revolves around happiness, economics, development, and ethics.

In my master thesis "Happiness and Economics", I tried to show that the empirical happiness (or rather subjective well-being, SWB) literature can significantly enrich economic theory. Since happiness is an essentially normative concept, I already discussed certain ethical aspects that took a more prominent place in my doctoral thesis "Happiness, Ethics, and Economics".

More specifically, my research interest starts out from the observation that any discourse about societal development, and indeed the very term "development", are inherently normative and naturally come with the (most often implicit) claim to speak in the name of ethically good development. This is true for development economics, happiness research etc. Typically, however, the respective disciplinary literature neglects the fundamental question of what good development actually is, taking for granted that it is whatever the discipline has singled out as desirable (maximum economic growth or maximum happiness, respectively). This is where development ethics comes in as a rather new discipline investigating exactly this question.

Within this framework, my research can be characterized as belonging primarily to development ethics—i.e., it is ultimately research with an ethical perspective—but making extensive use of insights from economics and from psychological happiness research.

© Johannes Hirata (last update: September 25, 2006)