The Values of Economics: An Aristotelian Perspective

The Values of Economics: An Aristotelian Perspective

The Values of Economics: An Aristotelian Perspective

The Values of Economics: An Aristotelian Perspective

Synopsis

This book seeks to bring human caring back into economic theory, attacking assumptions that little attention has to be paid to values since they are merely subjective. The author demonstrates that much economic analysis does in fact presuppose a specific value position and argues that the treatment of values in economics must be extended.

Excerpt

Somewhere along the route of modernisation economics has lost its connection to the most basic characteristics of human behaviour. It has come to disregard human motives, emotions, evaluation and the different forms of interaction through which human actors in economic life provide for themselves and for others. With this neglect the discipline not only lost much of its charm but also became less persuasive.

In the days of classical economics, actors in economic life were regarded as individual men and women interacting closely with each other to ‘truck, barter and exchange one thing for another’ (Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations 1776 [1981] Book I, ii.i: 25); they were viewed as citizens who agree that the economy should ‘supply the state or commonwealth with a revenue sufficient for the public services’ (Book iv, introduction: 428); and they were considered vulnerable, interdependent fellow humans ‘who stand in need of each other’s assistance, and are likewise exposed to mutual injuries. Where the necessary assistance is reciprocally afforded from love, from gratitude, from friendship and esteem, the society flourishes and is happy’ (Adam Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments 1759 [1984] Part ii, ii.iii: 85). However, in today’s neoclassical economics Rational Economic Man does not care at all.

This book started as a dissertation that attempted to bring human caring, as well as other values underlying economic behaviour, back into economic theory. the consequences of my inquiry turned out to be dramatic. At an earlier stage I thought I could get around the axiomatic methodology of modernist economics by doing empirical research on the role of care in the economy. But I soon found out that I lacked a conceptual framework to do so. Moreover, there were no data to be found except for a few case-by-case time-use studies: nothing to help me understand what caring means in economic life. Yet a theoretical approach was not possible without any empirical insights. the research therefore includes some fieldwork, though not in the familiar form of the testing of hypotheses. the empirical method has an inductive purpose, to generate hypotheses that would inform my theoretical inquiry. This theoretical research required me to demolish doors

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