The Elgar Companion to Social Economics, Second Edition
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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.
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Chapter 34: The states of social economics

Charlie Dannreuther and Oliver Kessler


Let us assume that social economics is mainly about real people. These people love and hate, laugh and cry, daydream and dysfunction. Of course a few of them do manage to act like modern men of reason and make egoistic self-maximizing decisions or follow the paths laid before them by institutional procedures, norms and careers. But most of them are more rounded individuals whose behaviour is better explained by approaches that treat individuals as homo sapiens and so are genuinely meta-disciplinary (i.e. that goes beyond disciplinary defined theory). As such an approach, social economics therefore tries to explain the relationship between economics and lived experiences. It is this ontology of life that differentiates social economics from other approaches in economics and social science. This chapter argues that if social economics seeks to provide a different way of representing economic activity, then it needs to problematize and engage with the notion of the state. Many views of the state start from an a priori given distinction of public and private spheres through which the state is defined in terms of a person or a subject with wants, needs, interests and an ‘objective function’. However, if social economics is about the relationship between people engaged with economic activity first and then the state, such a framework is of limited use.

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