- Towards an economics of well-being
- Cambridge Journal of Economics
- Volume | Issue number
- 41 | 4
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)
There is growing concern that presently dominant frameworks in economics no longer provide a way of adequately addressing and analysing the problems of today’s globalising and rapidly changing world. This article makes a number of fundamental proposals about how we might reframe economics to move it towards a clearer focus on human well-being. It develops arguments for a change in the basic ontological proposition and for the need to see ‘the economy’ as an instituted process of resource allocation. From this viewpoint, economics is then the study of resource allocation decisions and processes and the forces that guide these: from a human perspective it is about understanding who gets what, under what conditions and why? The paper argues that a pluralist approach to understanding the economy is necessary for political, analytical and technical reasons. Drawing on a range of contributions to heterodox economics, the paper argues that if we are to understand current crises and challenges, then our understanding of resource allocation in society must have a broader scope than is present in mainstream economics; it proposes a rethinking of economic agency and provides a critique of rational behaviour that is founded in shifting the emphasis from a narrow conception of welfare to well-being. Acknowledging human well-being as a multidimensional concept, the relationship between the well-being of the person and the collective is reconsidered and the methodological implications for the issue of aggregation are discussed. The article seeks to serve as a point of departure for formulating new research questions, exploring the relationships between human well-being and economic development and analysing economic behaviour and interactions in such a way as to bring us closer to peoples’ realities on the ground.
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