Volume 44, Number 175,
October-December 2013
Challenging Conventional Economics:
An Ethical Development Paradigm
Nikos Astroulakis *
Date received: October 12, 2012. Date accepted: April 2, 2013

Although development ethics is a topic related to studying growth, this area is often forgotten by the field of economics, even in the pluralistic school of social economics. Development ethics argue that society is more than the sum of its individual preferences. Unlike the positivism of conventional economics, development is not seen as growth in the strict sense of material expansion of welfare, but rather as the qualitative enrichment that human beings experience in all aspects of human life. This work proposes a novel paradigm in development ethics from a perspective of social and economic ethics, because social economics poses the proper ethi scal questions, while development ethics provides the appropriate responses.

Keywords: development ethics, social economics, paradigm, social ethics, conventional economics.

Development ethics can contribute to the broader study of development, which is frequently forgotten in the field of economics, even in social economics. Its objective may be described as an ethical reflection on the means and ends of local, national and global development. However, the foundation of development ethics, much like other intellectual fields, provides material for both consensus and controversy (Crocker, 1991; 2008, Clark, 2002), and is full of contradictions and methodological gaps. Criticism of the field reveals a confusing and complex framework and rather unclear and arbitrary analytical methods. For example, Gill's (1973: 116) review of Goulet’s book of development ethics, The Cruel Choice (1975 [1971]), a key text, emphasizes that “the problem with Goulet’s analysis is not so much that it is wrong but rather that it is arbitrary.”

Regardless, development ethics is a social science and a new philosophical approach that requires further research and provides an opportunity to progress in ethics studies.

This work contributes to the task of incorporating social economics in order to create a development ethics paradigm. More precisely, existing literature lacks a solid conceptual framework from which to study development ethics within the scope of economics. This text therefore proposes a conceptual framework, making use of the methodological tools of moral philosophy and social economics. From this perspective, development ethics and its object of study, which is development, can be precisely interpreted within the context of social economics to provide a comprehensive model of development ethics and reflect on the ethical dilemmas that arise from a critical analysis of development and social economics. In this case, social economics is understood as “[…] a holistic, ameliorative, value-directed approach to economics” (Dugger, 1997: 299).

The proposed development ethics paradigm responds to questions such as: What is the nature of development? What should be the relationship between the means and ends of development? And, what type of applied ethics might be most appropriate for the implications of development policy? These questions are examined on the local, national and international scales. Because such a comprehensive approach is unprecedented, students and academics of social economics and development ethics, as well as the overall field of development economics, stand to benefit from this novel paradigm of development ethics.

This work is structured as follows. The first section analyzes development ethics as it has been perceived up until now, the conventional approach to development and why studying this topic in the context of social economics is the appropriate scientific method to address the crucial issues of development ethics as an alternative to mainstream economics. The second section introduces some methodological considerations where the intersection of moral philosophy and economics, namely in terms of social economics and ethics, leads to the development ethics paradigm. The third section presents the normative and applied foundation of the goal of the development ethics paradigm. The final section provides some observations on how this study is a novel approach to reflecting upon the means and ends of local, national and international development.

* I would like to thank Asimina Christoforou for providing useful comments and suggestions. This research was co-financed by the European Union (European Social Fund – esf) and by Greek national funds through the Operational Program “Education and Lifelong Learning” from the National Strategic Reference Framework (nsrf) and the fund for the Heraclitus ii research program, Investing in a Knowledge Society through the European Social Fund. Spanish translation by Marcia Solorza, professor at the Faculty of Economics of the unam and Economics Post-Graduate tutor at the unam.

** PhD candidate in the Department of Economics at the University of Crete, Greece. E-mail: astroulakis@econ.soc.uoc.gr

Published in Mexico, 2012-2017 © D.R. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).
PROBLEMAS DEL DESARROLLO. REVISTA LATINOAMERICANA DE ECONOMÍA, Volume 49, Number 192, January-March is a quarterly publication by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, CP 04510, México, D.F. by Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas, Circuito Mario de la Cueva, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán,
CP 04510, México, D.F. Tel (52 55) 56 23 01 05 and (52 55) 56 24 23 39, fax (52 55) 56 23 00 97, www.probdes.iiec.unam.mx, revprode@unam.mx. Journal Editor: Alicia Girón González. Reservation of rights to exclusive use of the title: 04-2012-070613560300-203, ISSN: pending. Person responsible for the latest update of this issue: Minerva García, Circuito Maestro Mario de la Cueva s/n, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, CP 04510, México D.F., latest update: Feb 23th, 2018.
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