Volume 44, Number 175,
October-December 2013
Challenging Conventional Economics:
An Ethical Development Paradigm
Nikos Astroulakis

Social economics ascertains the opposite. Society is more than the sum of its individuals and the economy is more than the composite of individual preferences. As Dugger (1977: 299) points out, “social economics emphasizes that society is more than a sum of disparate individuals interacting in markets. It is an evolving whole which can best be understood and improved as a whole.” The development ethics paradigm proposed in this work is closely linked to ethics and a social analysis of the economy. Ethics is therefore perceived from a social perspective, which this work refers to as "social ethics."

Social ethics is more than the sum of the personal ethical points of view of the members of each society. Rather, it refers to the interaction of people and social norms, beliefs and institutions. This does not mean that social ethics devalues the influence of the individual on society and the economy; on the contrary, it links it with the methodological tools of moral philosophy based in large part on the individual aspects of ethics. These aspects of individual ethics are related to motivations, intent, consequences and questions about which individual actions or good or bad, and who is an ethical person. Social ethics personifies these aspects and references interactions among people, how society seeks an ethical structure, the meaning of welfare and finally, what it means to have a good society. As Aristotle stated, humans are "social animals." People live in large or small societies or communities and interact with their micro and macro environments. As a result, “all discussions of how people should behave, what policies governments should pursue and what obligations citizens owe to their governments obviously involve ethics” (Yeager, 2001: 2). To this end, social ethics is directly linked to the social interactions among people and social values. Social ethics affects how people live and the way in which society is structured, and analysis of social ethics is used for alternative economic perspectives, such as social economics.

Beyond the perception of social ethics, the paradigm proposed here is closely linked to moral, religious, political and philosophical aspects. As such, in this proposal, ethics is directly associated with moral philosophy and indirectly related to religious factors and political philosophy. Two points are important to keep in mind with regards to ethics and moral philosophy. First, a person’s ethical perspective is usually made up of (on different levels) the religious aspects of the person’s political and moral ideology, religious beliefs and political ideology. These aspects are part of a person's history and social reality, and the institutions, norms and social beliefs that are part of the social and historical heritage solidify the religious points of view and political thought that impact lives. Second, philosophical literature often uses the terms ethics, moral philosophy and ethics theory as synonyms (Dutt and Wilber, 2010: 4). As such, the term social ethics encompasses ethical religious and philosophical political matters, while the term ethics and moral philosophy and used interchangeably.

From the perspective of the methodology of social economics, “there are three components to any economic science: philosophical premises, empirical reality and economic policy” (Waters, 1988: 137). This analysis amends Waters’ statement of “any economic science” by stressing that different economic realities require different economic perspectives. As Hodgson (2001: xiii) indicated, “differences between different systems could be so important that the theories and concepts used to analyze them must also be substantially different, even if they share some common precepts. A fundamentally different reality may require a different theory.” Every economic theory interprets a situation differently. For the three analytical dimensions Waters sets forth, the development ethics paradigm proposed in this work responds by improving social economics on the meta-ethics, normative and applied ethics levels. Development ethics in the context of social economics reveals and defines development by considering a base set of ethical inquiries, the economic and social reality and expected economic outcomes.

Ethics and development are not limited to the realm of philosophers and economists. This text argues that local, national and international development ethics are also relevant to the previously mentioned fields. The proposed paradigm suggests that development ethics and social economics should be perceived as a unified field of study. In this way, the paradigm seeks to achieve a clear understanding of growth through the lens of development ethics and social economics. More precisely, the proposal is based on the pretext that in order to investigate development, two scientific fields are fundamental: ethics in terms of moral philosophy and the political economy from the perspective of social economics.1 Following the argument to combine the two fields - ethics and the political economy - the former presents issues through a discussion and dialectic debate of "good and evil" and its dimensions of value, while social economics provides a framework in which to explore solutions without undermining critical factors such as the economy, politics, ideology and power. An ethical thesis of development might be, “science [the political economy in our case] describes and explains what is, was and can be. To discern what ought to be is the task of ethics” (Crocker, 1991: 467). More precisely, in general, ethics and moral philosophy seek to answer the question of how we should live, while the political economy investigates the laws of the political, economic and social life and areas where they overlap in societies.

In terms of applied methodology, the development ethics paradigm proposed here categorizes types of societies in a globalized environment, and their economic, social and political foundations. Development ethics maintains that growth is a process oriented towards individuals and society in an economic and social global geographic reality, or more briefly, a globalized world. As such, development ethics encompasses both micro and macro-environments, from the smallest social unit to interactions between governments. However, it has become clear that development does not deliver economic welfare to all nations and peoples. This globalized environment contains a host of significant contradictions and inequalities among societies and individuals. Consequently, a thorough investigation of development ethics in a globalized context is appropriate to classify types of societies as well as their economic, social and political foundations.

1 It is generally accepted that the political economy is the study of the economy and of politics. However, there are different approaches to studying the political economy, not only in terms of either orthodox or heterodox economics, but also within these categories. However, detailing these differences is beyond the scope of this article. The political economy in this text is understood with the broad definition of the study of politics and the economy from the heterodox perspective of social economics.

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PROBLEMAS DEL DESARROLLO. REVISTA LATINOAMERICANA DE ECONOMÍA, Volume 49, Number 195 October-December 2018 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,
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