The Elgar Companion to Social Economics
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The Elgar Companion to Social Economics

Edited by John B. Davis and Wilfred Dolfsma

As this comprehensive Companion demonstrates, social economics is a dynamic and growing field that emphasizes the key role that values play in the economy and in economic life. Social economics treats the economy and economics as being embedded in the larger web of social and ethical relationships. It also regards 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. The Elgar Companion to Social Economics brings together the leading contributors in the field to elucidate a wide range of recent developments across different subject areas and topics. In so doing the contributors also map the likely trends and directions of future research. This Companion will undoubtedly become a leading reference source and guide to social economics for many years to come.
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Chapter 7: The Social Dimension of Internal Conflict

David George


7 The social dimension of internal conflict David George When questions of justice are addressed by social economists, the usual focus is on distributive justice. While widening income and wealth disparities are making such distributive issues more urgent than ever, this chapter will focus on a question just as important to a society having complete economic equality as to a society with great inequality. Are the rules by which the actions of sellers influence the tastes of buyers to be regarded as just? Sections 1 and 2 will provide some background, defining second-order preferences and summarizing my previous conclusions about the market’s failure in shaping preferences. The two sections that then follow will address social issues. Section 3 considers the impact that social forces other than the market have on our preferences while Section 4 explores how the social considerations of preferred preferences compare to the social considerations of preferences that are not preferred. Section 5 describes why ‘two-selves’ models of conflict have prevailed in mainstream theory and the limitations of these models, and Section 6 reflects on future trends and offers some policy suggestions. 1. Defining second-order preferences A first step in distinguishing metapreferences (or ‘second-order preferences’) from ‘regular’ preferences (or ‘first-order preferences’) is to specify what a second-order preference is not. It is not, as sometimes suggested, simply a better preference. One believing that it is might say, for example, that a person unhappy with her eating habits likely has a...

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