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Welfare Theory, Public Action, and Ethical Values
Revisiting the History of Welfare Economics


Roger E. Backhouse, Antoinette Baujard, Tamotsu Nishizawa, Yuichi Shionoya, Peter Cain, Satoshi Yamazaki, Richard Arena, Rogerio Arthmar, Michael McClur, Kotaro Suzumura, Steven Medema, Maxime Desmarais-Tremblay, Nao Saito, Constanze Binder, Muriel Gilardone
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  • Date Published: March 2021
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108841450

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About the Authors
  • This innovative history of welfare economics challenges the view that welfare economics can be discussed without taking ethical values into account. Whatever their theoretical commitments, when economists have considered practical problems relating to public policy, they have adopted a wider range of ethical values, whether equality, justice, freedom, or democracy. Even canonical authors in the history of welfare economics are shown to have adopted ethical positions different from those with which they are commonly associated. Welfare Theory, Public Action, and Ethical Values explores the reasons and implications of this, drawing on concepts of welfarism and non-welfarism developed in modern welfare economics. The authors exemplify how economic theory, public affairs and political philosophy interact, challenging the status quo in order to push economists and historians to reconsider the nature and meaning of welfare economics.

    • An innovative history of welfare economics
    • Accessible to readers with no specialised training in social choice theory or microeconomics
    • Shows how economic theory, public affairs and political philosophy interact
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Welfare Theory, Public Action, and Ethical Values is a collection of twelve essays at the intersection of the historical analysis of welfare economics and its contemporary challenges. The volume ties multiple and complex themes - fairness, wellbeing, the role of the individual in society - into a balanced whole. Many of the issues raised will be of the most fundamental importance to economic theory and public economics in the coming decades.' Marianne Johnson, University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh

    'Normative economics is generally tightly associated to welfarism, the view according to which states of affairs should be evaluated only according to individual welfare as measured by utility. The contributions in this book establish that this received view is misconceived. On the basis of carefully argued historical studies, the contributors show that several major economists have departed from welfarist principles when tackling practical and policy issues. This historical assessment of the importance of welfarism in normative economics was much needed, at a time where economists have to deal with pressing problems such as climate change or the rise of economic inequality that involve a wide range of ethical values.' Cyril Hédoin, University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne

    'This volume is a collection of highly thoughtful essays by various scholars. The essays provide fresh insights into the writings of some of the most prominent thinkers who have influenced the evolution of welfare economics. The volume is an important contribution to the history of welfare economics; it deserves a place in the bookshelves of every economist interested in conceptual issues relating to individual well-being and social welfare.' Prasanta K. Pattanaik , University of California, Riverside

    'The individual preference satisfaction-based version of welfarism that dominated welfare economics since the middle of the twentieth century has always had critics, but in recent decades these critical voices have become more influential. These changes have many sources, but two that stand out are the capability approach originating with Amartya Sen, and behavioral welfare economics originating in attempts to reconcile welfare and behavioral economics. This volume clearly demonstrates that non-welfarist positions have actually been much more prevalent in the history of economics than generally recognized by either practicing economists or most historians of economic thought.' Wade Hands, University of Puget Sound

    'This book is a must read for anyone interested in the history of welfare economics, a new and very exciting stream of research. This highly original collective work convincingly showing how economists step outside from the welfarist framework when engaged with practice. The book thus challenges the common idea that economists have adopted a welfarist approach.' Herrade Igersheim-Chauvet, French National Center for Scientific Research

    '… an intellectually deep and richly detailed edited collection that will be found rewarding by intellectual historians, philosophers of methodology in economics, and welfare economists alike.' Matthew D. Adler, The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought

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    Product details

    • Date Published: March 2021
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108841450
    • length: 300 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 158 x 21 mm
    • weight: 0.64kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction: revisiting the history of welfare economics Roger E. Backhouse, Antoinette Baujard and Tamotsu Nishizawa
    Part I. Plurality of Welfare in the Making of Welfare Economics:
    1. Ruskin's romantic triangle: neither wealth nor beauty but life Yuichi Shionoya
    2. Radicalism versus Ruskin: quality and quantity in Hobson's welfare economics Peter Cain
    3. Alfred Marshall on progress and human wellbeing Tamotsu Nishizawa
    4. Pigou's welfare economics revisited: a non-welfarist and non-utilitarian interpretation Satoshi Yamazaki
    5. To which kind of welfare did Léon Walras refer? The theorems and the state Richard Arena
    6. Value judgement within Pareto's economic and sociological approaches to welfare Rogerio Arthmar and Michael McClure
    Part II. Developing Modern Welfare Economics:
    7. John Hicks's farewell to economic welfarism: how deeply rooted and far reaching is his Non-Welfarist Manifesto? Kotaro Suzumura
    8. Individualism and ethics: Paul Samuelson's welfare economics Roger E. Backhouse
    9. Non welfarism in the early debates over the Coase theorem: the case of environmental economics Steven Medema
    10. Richard Musgrave and the idea of community Maxime Desmarais-Tremblay
    11. Non-welfaristic features of Kenneth Arrow's ideas of justice Nao Saito
    12. Beyond welfarism: the potential and limitations of the capability approach Constanze Binder
    13. The influence of Sen's applied economics on his non-welfarist approach to justice: agency at the core of public action for removing injustices Muriel Gilardone
    Conclusion Roger E. Backhouse, Antoinette Baujard, and Tamotsu Nishizawa.

  • Editors

    Roger E. Backhouse, University of Birmingham and Erasmus University Rotterdam
    Roger E. Backhouse is Professor of the History and Philosophy of Economics at the University of Birmingham and endowed Professor of Methodology and History of Economics at Erasmus University, Rotterdam.

    Antoinette Baujard, Université de Lyon et Université Jean Monnet à Saint-Étienne
    Antoinette Baujard is Professor of Economics at the University of Lyon and Jean Monnet University at Saint-Etienne.

    Tamotsu Nishizawa, Teikyo University Japan
    Tamotsu Nishizawa is Professor of Economics at Teikyo University, Japan.


    Roger E. Backhouse, Antoinette Baujard, Tamotsu Nishizawa, Yuichi Shionoya, Peter Cain, Satoshi Yamazaki, Richard Arena, Rogerio Arthmar, Michael McClur, Kotaro Suzumura, Steven Medema, Maxime Desmarais-Tremblay, Nao Saito, Constanze Binder, Muriel Gilardone

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