Bhutan and Gross National Happiness

The Two Faces of Gross National Happiness: Can Bhutan’s Nation-Building Strategy Also Be a Sustainable Alternative Development Paradigm?” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2021.1933139) is a new article by Helena See, an independent scholar based in London.

This is the first article that JCA has published on Bhutan.

The article’s abstract states:

This article considers two interlinked questions regarding the wider significance of the gross national happiness (GNH) development framework established in Bhutan. First, to what extent can GNH be considered a genuinely alternative development paradigm, distinct from the traditional pursuit of economic growth? And second, what are its prospects for survival in a globalising world? It argues that, while the government of Bhutan has succeeded in crafting a distinctive economic middle path, GNH’s integrity as a development paradigm has been undermined by its dual function as the centrepiece of Bhutan’s nation-building strategy. Based on close analysis of the actual trade-offs made by the government in operationalising the GNH framework, the article argues that, when these two competing visions of GNH have come into conflict, it is the nation-building version that has so far prevailed. In its treatment of these questions, the article also seeks to bridge a deep fracture in the existing literature on Bhutan by integrating less prominent work on the history of discrimination faced by the country’s minority ethnic Nepali population, with the more dominant and complimentary discourse on Bhutan’s experiment with GNH – which until now has largely ignored these darker aspects of Bhutanese policy-making.

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