Routledge - Taylor & Francis Group Ltd

Exploring a quality of life, self-determined

Built capital combines with social, personal and natural capital to contextualize people's quality of life. Although this last concept has strongly tested academic reasoning, it is often presented simply and as a fait accompli in strategic planning documents. This article questions these pragmatic 'top-down' scripts by engaging the self-determination theory of motivation. It argues the transience of hedonic or material reward and posits a much higher plane of eudemonic fulfilment. The key to self-determination and, thus, an agreeable quality of life lies in an individual's acquisition of competence, autonomy and relatedness. From this bridgehead and via a macro-level analysis, the article identifies contemporary economic, environmental and social challenges to the achievement of quality of life, ones that are likely to need individual resourcefulness and resilience to overcome. The account concludes that, instead of proffering cookie-cutter or one-size-fits-all formulae, authorities may consider ways of helping individuals help themselves to a better quality of life based on a precept that life is, in part, what you make it and does not rely on material wealth alone. In this way, it could be possible to substitute other forms for material capital to improve environmental and social sustainability.

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