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Soft infrastructure comprises values, customs, norms, and the laws and institutions of a society. It is part of our living environment and conditions the way we relate to one another in social, economic, and political life. Soft infrastructure is grounded by institutional logic, being “symbolically grounded, organizationally structured, politically defended, and technically and materially constrained.” Today our world is now very much constrained by an adversarial culture which many people in the west see as fundamental to the western civilization. However, the adversarial culture has a relatively short history and is not really intrinsic to western civilization. In order to build a more peaceful world that is conducive to peace and prosperity, we need a culture that emphasizes the public interest defined under the Rawlsian "veil of ignorance," which asks us to momentarily forget our identities and look for institutional arrangements or policies that serve our best interests if there were an equal chance for us to be anyone within the community. This perspective asks us to put ourselves in the shoes of others and is commonly referred to as the Golden Rule, and it is cherished both in western and eastern cultures for at least two millennia. This paper, through a comprehensive review of historical examples and contemporary experiences, stresses the urgency of developing the “right soft infrastructure” as a means of alleviating social ills and pernicious polarization.

Recommended Citation

Ho, L. S., Olivos, F., & Wong, W. K. O. (2023). Soft infrastructure and happiness: Toward a better world (SERC Working Paper Series). Retrieved from