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

There is also the normative ethical question: What should be the means to achieve development? In response, Goulet (1975 [1971]), initially determines a normative set of ethical objectives and development strategies. Recently, literature on development ethics has organized and examined these ethical goals and strategies to achieve a good society using Goulet’s methodology. These have been grouped into three areas: 1) life-sustenance, 2) esteem and 3) freedom. Societies and individuals must determine the value of welfare in their specific contexts. Briefly, the first category refers to what is essential for living and "all objects that satisfy man's basic requirements for food, shelter, health and survival can be called life-sustaining goods" (Goulet, 1975 [1971]: 87). The second is a universally accepted value, because all humans must feel respect, dignity, honor and acceptance to live in society. The third is a component of welfare because development must occur among free people (free from others, from nature, from ignorance, from institutions and behaviors) that govern themselves and determine their own destinies. On the other hand, ethical strategies are regulated, which provides them with a conceptual and practical framework where ethical objectives can be discussed, and policy recommendations for these goals formulated. Ethical strategies are classified in the following way: a) abundance of goods, ii) universal solidarity and iii) participation. The first means that people must have enough goods, also known as having welfare. Enough means all goods to satisfy biological needs, which refers to a broad range of life aspects and not only to basic needs. The second, universal solidarity, can be understood as a philosophical item, which is the need of all people to unite around a common destiny. Goulet (1995: 64) wrote: "all philosophies and systems of thought postulate, at least implicitly, a common destiny for humans: the fate of one is the fate of all.” Finally, common people must participate in decision-making for the local societies where they live. This point, together with international development, is perhaps of the most relevance. The objectives of normative ethics and its strategies are undeniably linked and are derived from the meta-ethics perspective of development ethics.

On the level of applied ethics, development ethics is concerned with policies applied on the international scale in macro terms, but still taking into account the micro features of each society, and how each adopts forms of global ethics (Crocker, 2008). The discussion on this last issue is inevitably wide-ranging and the models perhaps even more so. For this point, this text refers to a summary from Crocker (2008: 1): "[global development ethics] justifies, applies and extends ethical reflection on development goals, policies, projects and institutions from the local to the international level.” More recent empirical studies of applied ethics policies, such as studies by Enderle (2010), assess how wealth is created from the perspective of development ethics in one of the most globally relevant economies: China. It shows that wealth creation is not determined merely by an increase in economic growth rates. “Making money can be destroying wealth while creating wealth can be losing money" (Enderle, 2010: 2). Enderle shows that development, in other words, the creation of wealth, does not simply mean generating money or maximizing profit or adding value, because development actually has a pretty vague meaning. There are also material and spiritual aspects of wealth in the process of production and distribution, and there is physical, financial, human and social capital. The Latin American philosopher Enrique Dussel believes that recent global ethics or liberation ethics, in his words, should provide common people with "some sort of orientation in terms of the ethical criteria and principles of development in a step by step manner, from freedom from the perspective of victims, so that they can confront the effects of oppressive norms, actions, micro-structures, institutions or ethical systems in the context of each life in the current historical moment” (Dussel, 2013: xviii). In this context, the concept of authentic development, as proposed by Goulet (1996) can also elucidate how development ethics perceives this beyond criteria and principles and how it has applied them to a good society. The term authentic development refers to the means and ends of human actions, in other words, the acquisition of and access to a better life. As previously stated, development must respond to research on normative ethics in terms of the meaning of welfare, the basis of justice in society and the attitude of individuals towards nature. “Providing satisfactory conceptual and institutional answers to these three questions is what constitutes authentic development” (Goulet, 1996: 97). Applied ethics must respond precisely to each of these areas in all fields of life.


In this analysis, development ethics has been integrated into the economic tradition with social plurality. The idea of approaching development from a social economics perspective using ethical knowledge stems from the fact that the nature of economic and social development has value-ethics dimensions. It is very important to distinguish between social and individual ethics for any effective debate on ethics.2 Individual ethics offers a self-interested perspective of ethical values, mainly supported by mainstream economic theories, which maintain that a society is the sum of individual preferences. On the other hand, social ethics takes into account the person and considers society as an interactive total, which means something more than just the sum of its individuals. Development is not an abstract idea. As such, it must be analyzed within a historical and social context. Goulet (1975 [1971]: viii), founder of development ethics, wrote that "technological modernization, economic advances and social transformation never occur in a historical vacuum." Development ethics studies delve into this theory to conclude that development cannot exist inside of an ideological or ethical vacuum. Differences in the political, social and economic structures of societies determine the differences in their development ethics. Varied systems of development ethics lead to varied political, social and economic objectives, as well as the policies applied and the outcomes achieved. Development is also understood as both an end state and a series of actions. Is there even an end state? Yes, there is, if we view the overlap of ethics and economics as the means and the end to any development efforts.

Given the above premise, this study has demonstrated a methodological framework for development ethics in the context of social economics. The aim of the development ethics paradigm is to identify the ethical basis of development; the paradigm also works in conjunction with social economics to find the political, social and economic basis of any society, and reflect valuable ethical alternatives. The development ethics paradigm is a mirror for the economic, social and political foundation of every meta-ethical society and for the applied ethics used in development. This work therefore provides a novel perspective of the relationship between meta-ethics and normative matters, as well as ethics applied to development. In the context of social economics, the development ethics paradigm addresses the ethical challenges of social and economic development.

This paradigm contributes a precise methodological approach to analyze development in ethical terms. This work has shown that development ethics and its subject matter – development – can be interpreted in a precise manner within this social, economic and ethical methodology. There is a phrase that says: “A good theory leads to better solutions.” Similarly, this study argues that to achieve ethical development, a theory based on development ethics and social economics leads to better solutions.

2 Available at http://www.wordreference.com/english/suggestions.aspx?w=insight&dict=enesdevelopment

Published in Mexico, 2012-2017 © D.R. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).
PROBLEMAS DEL DESARROLLO. REVISTA LATINOAMERICANA DE ECONOMÍA, Volume 49, Number 193, April-June 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,
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: Moritz Cruz. 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: June 27th, 2018.
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