Fear of Crime, Fear of Control: How Structuring Freedoms can Increase Happiness

  • Roisin Timmins


The balance between control and free will is a deciding factor in the happiness of an individual, and by extension, of a state. It has been the subject of philosophical discourse for thousands of years, from Plato’s The Republic and the reduction of freedom to choose for achieving ‘justice’, to the long-held western democracies that proclaim that freedom of choice is the pillar of society. To understand individual happiness, the social and public contexts must be included in the subjective experience (Selymes, 2011). It has been argued that increasing control (not choice) can have a positive effect on the safety and happiness of individuals. However totalitarian regimes are not known for producing happy citizens because the lack of choice undermines the individuals’ sense of control of their own destinies. This article aims to use Low’s ethnography on gated communities and research of Jankowiak’s ethnography of Hohotian’s reactions to the Cultural Revolution of China as the base to investigate the right balance between ‘freedom to’ and ‘freedom from’.


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