Buzzwords, bureaucracy, and badges: An ethnographic exploration of how versions of wellbeing are constructed through social ideology projects in a UK police organisation

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This thesis explores the role of social relations in the ways that people construct, mobilise, consume, and reconstruct meaning about wellbeing in a police organisation in England. This ethnographic study further examines how the concept of wellbeing is a social construction. The constructivist approach that was adopted seeks some understanding of what the individuals in the study perceive wellbeing to mean and how they make sense of the concept. Predictably, there are discernible differences between how wellbeing is interpreted amongst subgroups (e.g. front-line officers, senior managers, and the chief constable). By exploring these differences there is a potential to understand the relationships from which constructions of wellbeing emerge and the resultant implications to put into practice.
By adopting an ethnographic approach, rich material from an embedded researcher perspective has been collected in the form of fieldnotes, observations, and interviews over a nine-month period. In the context of increased attention being paid to the changing landscape of societal interpretations of wellbeing, different methods of exploration are
required to advance the academic and practical understandings of the concept. Analysis indicates the relevance of a relational wellbeing framework and distinct constructions of wellbeing being mobilised, consumed and re-constructed in practice in the context of the study.
This study not only extends our knowledge of the lived experiences of wellbeing, but also provides insight to how wellbeing is mobilised in an organisational setting. By examining social norms, rules, and ideologies associated with wellbeing, organisational characteristics emerge which shape interpretations within a police organisation. The theoretical framework within which this ethnographic study is situated has permitted insights into constructions of
wellbeing in organisational settings that have previously gone unaddressed. Acknowledging these findings allows for an advancement of both academic knowledge and policing practice
with regards to wellbeing and provides an enhanced understanding of such in a bureaucratic, hierarchical organisational context.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Loughborough University
  • Coupland, Christine, Principal Supervisor, External person
  • Sage, Dan, Co-Supervisor, External person
Award date18 Jul 2019
Place of PublicationUnited Kingdom
Publication statusPublished - 01 Feb 2019

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