Alternatively, others may either choose, or be forced by circumstance to downplay the fulfilment of their material needs, prioritising instead either their relational or subjective well-being. The realisation of well-being can thus be assessed in an integrated and comprehensive manner by looking at this intersection.
We can also begin to distinguish between i personal well-being and ii collective well-being.
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However, it is necessary to distinguish between the personal and the collective, because we understand that from a dynamic perspective proposal that well-being must also be understood as an emergent process in itself that stands subject to qualitative transformation when it is aggregated to a higher, collective level.
There are often trade-offs between personal and collective well-being and between levels of well-being over time. The notions of personal and collective well-being recognise the existence of trade-offs and potential synergies.
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Trade-offs and synergies are the source of qualitative transformations taking place in the aggregation from the micro to the macro level. People may be willing to sacrifice their own well-being for a broader and more diffuse group of people e. This conceptualisation provides room for understanding human relationships beyond simple one-to-one transactions and person-to-person relationships and in terms of person-to-collective relationships.
This insight into a more social conception of human well-being McGregor, ; Lawson, adds to our understanding of resource decision-making as located in a complex system, and the patterning of these decisions as both an outcome and underlying generator of an emergent and multilayered process. The Netherlands, historically, has provided an example of this, where the combination of tolerance of other values within the nation state and willingness to contribute through high tax rates to collective civic life and culture has translated into relatively low levels of income inequality and well-being failure OECD, In line with Bowles and Gintis , the model that we propose here builds on the many empirical observations that human beings are social and cooperative in nature and that they will often act in the interests of the collective as a means of survival.
As Ray and Liew , p. The agency of the collective should therefore not be overlooked in any exercise of economic modelling and planning that focuses on human well-being. One of the biggest challenges economists face is how to approach the aggregation problem when engaging in model design and economic planning, i.
Institutional economists such as Coase , and North have tried to fill this gap, but are criticised as having only partially succeeded because of their relative neglect of non-market institutions and of the history of institutional change Chang, Over time, the realisation has grown that economic aggregation problems cannot simply be approached uniformly as a static endogenous summation problem i. Endogenous summation builds in weaknesses to analysis for two reasons. First, it sidelines potentially important exogenous factors and events that appear only at higher levels of aggregation e.
As has been argued by Polanyi and many heterodox economists after him see Folbre, ; Lutz, ; van Staveren, ; Davis, ; Fine, ; Lee, , these exogenous factors could be political, social, cultural and historical in character and are well understood to determine economic processes, structures, policies and outcomes in decisive ways. Second, it ignores the possibility of emergent properties of resource exchange relationships changing in significance and character over time, because of adaptation.
Emergent properties are generally unknowns and they present themselves in the very process of interactions between lower-level entities aggregating to higher-level outcomes. For example, if rich people in a poor country want to build high fences around their compounds in order to feel safe, this may contribute to high levels of crime and insecurity in society as a whole because of fewer interactions and declining trust and understanding across the population as a whole. The question then is how to build emergent properties into economic modelling when used for planning purposes.
Before considering the possibility of constructing feedback loops, anticipatory behavioural mechanisms and transformative shifts into the existing framework, as ways to capture emergent processes, we propose to construct a new framework first. In Pouw and McGregor , we have considered the possibility of translating an economics—of—well-being approach into a form of social accounting matrix SAM. These matrices are used by economic planners to inform a wide range of different models e.
Elsewhere we have postulated that a revised SAM, titled an inclusive economy matrix IEM , could be used to discipline thinking about qualitative relationships between resource agents in which these quantitative flows are embedded and subjective evaluations of them. The specification of variables and functional relationships forms part of the next analytical steps of using an IEM-type tool in practice, when the framework is applied to the study of a concrete economic problem.
Given that both quantitative and qualitative economic values can enter the functional specifications, their outcomes cannot simply be aggregated on a unidimensional scale. This is where we need to start thinking about the intersection of the measures of the different dimensions of well-being as illustrated by the Venn diagram in Figure 1 and how these can be used in economic analysis, instead of or alongside simple summation procedures.
In this paper we have offered the first steps in a series of proposals for an alternative framework of thinking about the economics of human well-being.
Advocating for a pluralist perspective is a point in its own right and is seen as necessary because the adoption of a well-being focus in itself indicates that no one particular form of analysis can be dictated. We argue that plurality is needed because politically, morally and epistemologically we cannot limit how people might differently think about what well-being should include and how people think that they and we collectively should go about achieving it.
The proposals have been made in terms of the economy being defined and characterised as an instituted process of resource allocation that is underpinned by socio-cultural and political values, that is dynamically structured and layered, that is organised around complex internal relations between resource agents and their multiple identities, that is made up of the paid and unpaid economies and that has emergent properties that codetermine human well-being at personal and collective levels.
Putting human well-being at the centre of economics enables us to consider more comprehensively how economic processes and policies are likely to affect the human well-being of present and future generations. It encourages us to think of societal development and the policies that we think will stimulate and support this from a broader perspective than one that is narrowly focused on economic growth.
An economics of well-being approach is thus grounded in both instrumental and moral motivations. As economists, we want better guidance on how best to understand and if necessary guide the allocation of resources in respect of societal values. From a moral perspective, we are concerned about the sustainability of development, both now and for the future, and therefore about intertemporal and interspatial distributions and what is socially just and sustainable.
We invite others to contribute to the follow-up steps to these first propositions, not the least about the methodological implications and the new research questions that flow from an economics of human well-being. Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide.
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Article Navigation. Close mobile search navigation Article Navigation. Volume Article Contents. A case for pluralism in economics. Five distinct properties of the economy as a social process.
Emergent resource agency. From welfare to well-being. Methodological implications and uses. Final reflections and future research. Towards an economics of well-being J. Allister McGregor. Oxford Academic. Google Scholar. Nicky Pouw.
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World Bank. Schlefer , p. This creates disincentives for economic analysts to take consumer preferences to be a serious matter for study. Efforts to provide equality of access for full participation in society lead social change through consciousness-raising.
It is through an elevation of awareness that a problem can be clearly identified, its implications understood, and alternative solutions developed [ 12 ]. By focusing on what the individual participants identify as the ideal approaches for resolving the digital divide, and by considering the implications of both attaining and failing to attain these approaches, this study attempts to understand visions of how everyone can become digital.
To effectively enact social change, such as the bridging of the digital divide, an agent of change needs not only to consider those forces that shape today's reality, but also create visions of how the future may be impacted by these influences Schwartz, Textor et al. With this method, this study explores optimistic, pessimistic, and most probable scenarios of the digital divide in Washington State as described by 13 individuals who lead various efforts to ameliorate Washington's digital rift.
As part of this response, four questions form the purpose of this study:. When developing a research design, Pitman and Maxwell recommend that the researcher consider two questions: "What is the empirical unknown in this situation? What is the empirical unknown in this study?