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 30: The States of Social Economics

Charlie Dannreuther and Oliver Kessler


Charlie Dannreuther and Oliver Kessler Introduction 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. If social economics wants to capture fully the role of the state in economic practices, it needs to leave the confines...

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