Table of Contents

The Elgar Companion to Social Economics, Second Edition

The Elgar Companion to Social Economics, Second Edition

Edited by John B. Davis and Wilfred Dolfsma

Social economics is a dynamic and growing field that emphasizes the key roles social values play in the economy and economic life. This second edition of the Elgar Companion to Social Economics revises all chapters from the first edition, and adds important new chapters to reflect the expansion and development of social economics. The expert contributions explain a wide range of recent developments across different subject areas and topics in the field, mapping out possible directions of future social economic research. Social economics treats the economy and economics as embedded in a web of social and ethical relationships. It considers economics and ethics as essentially connected, and adds values such as justice, fairness, dignity, well-being, freedom, and equality to the standard emphasis on efficiency. This book will be a leading resource and guide to social economics for many years to come.

Chapter 15: The social economics of growth and inequality

Morris Altman

Subjects: business and management, business ethics and trust, economics and finance, institutional economics, methodology of economics, public sector economics, social policy and sociology, economics of social policy


Economic growth is of fundamental importance to social and material well-being, and it is therefore of fundamental importance to identify the determinants of growth and those conditions by which most individuals benefit from the growth process. By tradition, social economics has been particularly concerned with the social justice implications of economic theory and policy. It has also paid special attention to the nature and extent of the social embeddedness of individual decision-making. I focus on the determinants of growth, which touch upon social context, and how these determinants relate to social justice concerns. With regard to the latter, special attention is paid to the level of material well-being as well as the well-being derived from rights which enable individuals to construct and realize their true preferences. True preferences are the choices that an individual would choose to make under ideal choice conditions, such as individual freedom (absence of coercion), and full information, given their social context (Altman, 2006a; Nussbaum, 2000). Traditional and current discourse on the determinants of growth pay little heed to social context and social justice concerns, apart from the embedded assumption that sustained growth should, as a rule, improve the material well-being of the population at large – a trickle-down effect. Given a free market, inclusive of free trade and capital flows, plus the rule of law, with minimal government intervention, economic growth should be maximized, as should the material welfare of society at large.

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