Economics for the Common Good: Two Centuries of Social Economic Thought in the Humanistic Tradition

Economics for the Common Good: Two Centuries of Social Economic Thought in the Humanistic Tradition

Economics for the Common Good: Two Centuries of Social Economic Thought in the Humanistic Tradition

Economics for the Common Good: Two Centuries of Social Economic Thought in the Humanistic Tradition

Synopsis

This volume provides an introduction to economics in terms of human rather than material welfare. Building on a social economics tradition, it proposes a more rational economic order and develops new principles of economic policy. The issues covered include: the inadequacy of individualistic economics in guiding policy formation; a logical critique of economic rationality; rethinking of the modern business corporation; a critique of modern trade theory and unregulated international competition; and how standard economic theory encourages major ecological problems.

In approaching problems generally conceived to be purely economic from a social and ecological perspective, the author explores the vital interface between economics, ethics and politics.

Excerpt

Little did I know that the preferred vacation spot of my boyhood would contain a thread that would link me to my future. The old Swiss castle, Schloss Brunegg, located about one hour from Zurich, served as the summer residence of my favorite playmate. His father, Professor Jean Rudolf von Salis, was the widely known biographer of the nineteenth-century Swiss historian and economist J.C.L. Simonde de Sismondi. When visiting in those early years I was more interested in the outdoors than social philosophy. Still, the kind professor, with his stacks of papers, piles of books and the intellectual ambiance of the place, must have left an impression at some deeper level, a subtle influence that manifested itself two decades later.

After completing a Ph.D. in economics at the University of California, Berkeley, and having taught the subject for some years at the University of Maine, I was to make the fateful acquaintance of Ken Lux, a psychologist with a consuming interest in economic matters. Ken, deeply suspicious of the prevailing way economists approach their subject matter, and after prolonged discussions, managed to overpower all my learned defenses. As a result of this slow and arduous process of “deprogramming,” of questioning and shedding more and more the conventional way of looking at things, we co-authored The Challenge of Humanistic Economics (1979). In the process of writing that book and tracing the history of this type of economics, I soon discovered Sismondi’s work, much of it translated into many languages but scarcely, at least until very recently, into English. And ever since, I have found it stimulating to indulge in his new brand of economic thought, so utterly different from modern standard economics and so much more humane. In particular, it is striking how much the problems and issues he discussed almost 200 years ago are still relevant today: a teaching of how to study economic activity and institutions without losing sight of the human, social dimension and (more recently also of the) ecological dimensions of things.

Modern economics is the science of self-interest, of how to best accommodate individual behavior by means of markets and the commodification of human relations. Much of it still reflects the particular philosophic tradition . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.