This is the first book to examine the central tenets of economics from a feminist point of view. In these original essays, the authors suggest that the discipline of economics could be improved by freeing itself from masculine biases.
Beyond Economic Man raises questions about the discipline not because economics is too objective but because it is not objective enough. The contributors—nine economists, a sociologist, and a philosopher—discuss the extent to which gender has influenced both the range of subjects economists have studied and the way in which scholars have conducted their studies. They investigate, for example, how masculine concerns underlie economists' concentration on market as opposed to household activities and their emphasis on individual choice to the exclusion of social constraints on choice. This focus on masculine interests, the contributors contend, has biased the definition and boundaries of the discipline, its central assumptions, and its preferred rhetoric and methods. However, the aim of this book is not to reject current economic practices, but to broaden them, permitting a fuller understanding of economic phenomena.
These essays examine current economic practices in the light of a feminist understanding of gender differences as socially constructed rather than based on essential male and female characteristics. The authors use this concept of gender, along with feminist readings of rhetoric and the history of science, as well as postmodernist theory and personal experience as economists, to analyze the boundaries, assumptions, and methods of neoclassical, socialist, and institutionalist economics.
The contributors are Rebecca M. Blank, Paula England, Marianne A. Ferber, Nancy Folbre, Ann L. Jennings, Helen E. Longino, Donald N. McCloskey, Julie A. Nelson, Robert M. Solow, Diana Strassmann, and Rhonda M. Williams.
Economics as a Social Science is a highly readable critique of economic theory, based on a wide range of research, that endeavors to restore economics to its proper role as a social science. Contrary to conventional economic theory, which assumes that people have no free will, this book instead bases economics on the realistic assumption that human beings can choose; that we are complex beings affected by emotion, custom, habit, and reason; and that our behavior varies with circumstances and times. It embraces the findings of history, psychology, and other social sciences and the insights from great literature on human behavior as opposed to the rigidity set by mathematical axioms that define how economics is understood and practiced today.
Andrew M. Kamarck demonstrates that only rough accuracy is attainable in economic measurement, and that understanding an economy requires knowledge from other disciplines. The canonical hypotheses of economics (perfect rationality, self-interest, equilibrium) are shown to be inadequate (and in the case of "equilibrium" to be counterproductive to understanding the forces that dominate the economy), and more satisfactory assumptions provided. The market is shown to work imperfectly and to require appropriate institutions to perform its function reasonably well. Further, Kamarck argues that self-interest does not always lead to helping the general interest.
Economics as a Social Science examines and revises the fundamental assumptions of economics. Because it avoids jargon and explains terms carefully, it will be of interest to economics majors as well as to graduate students of economics and other social sciences, and social scientists working in government and the private sector.
Andrew M. Kamarck is former Director, Economic Development Institute, the World Bank.
Economics for Humans
Julie A. Nelson University of Chicago Press, 2006 Library of Congress HB72.N445 2006 | Dewey Decimal 174
At its core, an economy is about providing goods and services for human well-being. But many economists and critics preach that an economy is something far different: a cold and heartless system that operates outside of human control. In this impassioned and perceptive work, Julie A. Nelson asks a compelling question: If our economic world is something that we as humans create, aren’t ethics and human relationships—dimensions of a full and rich life—intrinsically part of the picture? Is it possible to take this thing we call economics and give it a body and a soul?
Economics for Humans argues against the well-ingrained notion that economics is immune to moral values and distant from human relationships. Here, Nelson locates the impediment to envisioning a more considerate economic world in an assumption that is shared by both neoliberals and the political left. Despite their seemingly insurmountable differences, Nelson notes that they both make use of the metaphor, first proposed by Adam Smith, that the economy is a machine. This pervasive idea, Nelson argues, has blinded us to the qualities that make us work and care for one another—qualities that also make businesses thrive and markets grow. We can wed our interest in money with our justifiable concerns about ethics and social well-being. And we can do so if we recognize that an economy is not a machine, but a living, beating heart that circulates blood to all parts of the body while also serving as an emblem of compassion and care.
Nothing less than a manifesto, Economics for Humans will both invigorate and inspire readers to reshape the way they view the economy, its possibilities, and their place within it.
At its core, an economy is about providing goods and services for human well-being. But many economists and critics preach that an economy is something far different: a cold and heartless system that operates outside of human control. In this impassioned and perceptive work, Julie A. Nelson asks a compelling question: given that our economic world is something that we as humans create, aren’t ethics and human relationships—dimensions of a full and rich life—intrinsically part of the picture?
Economics for Humans argues against the well-ingrained notion that economics is immune to moral values and distant from human relationships. Here, Nelson locates the impediment to a more considerate economic world in an assumption that is shared by both neoliberals and the political left. Despite their seemingly insurmountable differences, both make use of the metaphor, first proposed by Adam Smith, that the economy is a machine. This pervasive idea, Nelson argues, has blinded us to the qualities that make us work and care for one another—qualities that also make businesses thrive and markets grow. We can wed our interest in money with our justifiable concerns about ethics and social well-being. And we can do so if we recognize that an economy is not a machine, but a living thing in need of attention and careful tending.
This second edition has been updated and refined throughout, with expanded discussions of many topics and a new chapter that investigates the apparent conflict between economic well-being and ecological sustainability. Further developing the main points of the first edition, Economics for Humans will continue to both invigorate and inspire readers to reshape the way they view the economy, its possibilities, and their place within it.
The 1993 publication of Marianne A. Ferber and Julie A. Nelson's Beyond Economic Man was a landmark in both feminist scholarship and the discipline of economics, and it quickly became a handbook for those seeking to explore the emerging connections between the two. A decade later, this book looks back at the progress of feminist economics and forward to its future, offering both a thorough overview of feminist economic thought and a collection of new, high-quality work from the field's leading scholars.
Are humans at their core seekers of their own pleasure or cooperative members of society? Paradoxically, they are both. Pleasure-seeking can take place only within the context of what works within a defined community, and central to any community are the evolved codes and principles guiding appropriate behavior, or morality. The complex interaction of morality and self-interest is at the heart of Geoffrey M. Hodgson’s approach to evolutionary economics, which is designed to bring about a better understanding of human behavior.
In From Pleasure Machines to Moral Communities, Hodgson casts a critical eye on neoclassical individualism, its foundations and flaws, and turns to recent insights from research on the evolutionary bases of human behavior. He focuses his attention on the evolution of morality, its meaning, why it came about, and how it influences human attitudes and behavior. This more nuanced understanding sets the stage for a fascinating investigation of its implications on a range of pressing issues drawn from diverse environments, including the business world and crucial policy realms like health care and ecology.
This book provides a valuable complement to Hodgson’s earlier work with Thorbjørn Knudsen on evolutionary economics in Darwin’s Conjecture, extending the evolutionary outlook to include moral and policy-related issues.
Human Well-Being and Economic Goals
Edited by Frank Ackerman, David Kiron, Neva R. Goodwin, Jonathan M. Harris, andKevin P. Gallagher; Foreword by Kenneth Arrow Island Press, 1997 Library of Congress HB98.2.H85 1997 | Dewey Decimal 330.157
What are the ends of economic activity? According to neoclassical theory, efficient interaction of the profit-maximizing "ideal producer" and the utility-maximizing "ideal consumer" will eventually lead to some sort of social optimum. But is that social optimum the same as human well-being? Human Well-Being and Economic Goals addresses that issue, considering such questions as:
Does the maximization of individual welfare really lead to social welfare?
How can we deal with questions of relative welfare and of equity?
How do we define, or at least understand, individual and social welfare?
And how can these things be measured, or even assessed?
Human Well-Being and Economic Goals brings together more than 75 concise summaries of the most significant literature in the field that consider issues of present and future individual and social welfare, national development, consumption, and equity. Like its predecessors in the Frontier Issues in Economic Thought series, it takes a multidisciplinary approach to economic concerns, examining their sociological, philosophical, and psychological aspects and implications as well as their economic underpinnings.
Human Well-Being and Economic Goals provides a powerful introduction to the current and historical writings that examine the concept of human well-being in ways that can help us to set goals for economic activity and judge its success. It is a valuable summary and overview for students, economists, and social scientists concerned with these issues.