Many types of `other-regarding' acts and beliefs cannotbe accounted for satisfactorilyas instances of sophisticated selfishness, altruism,team-reasoning, Kantian duty, kinselection etc. This paper argues in favour ofre-inventing the notion of solidarity as ananalytical category capable of shedding importantnew light on hitherto under-explainedaspects of human motivation. Unlike altruism andnatural sympathy (which turn theinterests of specific others into one's own), orteam-reasoning (which applies exclusivelyto members of some team), or Kantian duty (whichdemands universalisable principlesof action), the essence of solidarity lies in thehypothesis that people (...) are capable ofresponding sympathetically to (or empathising with)a condition afflicting ‘others’,irrespectively of who those others are or whetherone cares for them personally. Andwhen that condition is a social artefact, we argue,solidarity turns radical. (shrink)
Can economics, which is based on the notion of individual optimization, really model individuals who have a sense of exteriority? This question, derived both from Marcel Mauss's sociological analysis of the social norm of gift-giving and from Emmanuel Levinas's phenomenological analysis of the idea of 'otherness,' leads to the problem of whether it is possible to model altruism with the tool of optimization. By investigating the ways in which economic theory can address this challenge, and by introducing a postulate of (...) methodological altruism following Levinas's theory of the constitution of subjectivity through otherness, this paper uncovers an alternative foundation for the very notion of optimizing calculation - no longer as a self-centered initiative, but rather as an other-centered response. This makes it possible to clarify the implicit content of usual economic individualism, and to see on the basis of which ethical arguments the economic method of optimization may be upheld. The paper studies the consequences of this renewed foundation of optimization for the organization of a fair and efficient interaction between altruists. (shrink)
This book asks how a more liberating economics could be constructed and taught. It suggests that if economists today are serious about emancipation and empowerment, they will have to radically change their conception about what it means for a citizen to act rationally in a complex society. Arnsperger emphasises that current economics neglects an important fact: Many of us ask not only 'what's in it for us', within a given socio-economic context; we also care about the context itself. The author (...) argues that if citizens keen on exercising their critical reason actually demanded economic theories that allowed them to do so, economics would have to become a constantly emerging, open-ended knowledge process. He claims that in a truly free economy, there would be no all-out war between 'orthodox' and 'heterodox' approaches, but an intricate and unpredictable 'post-orthodox' pluralism that would emerge from the citizens' own complex interactions. Offering an original and path-breaking combination of insights from Hayek, the theory of complexity, and the Frankfurt School of social criticism, Arnsperger discusses how such a free economy would generate its specific brand of economics, called 'Critical Political Economy'. (shrink)
This article provides an overview of the main concepts needed today to locate the discourse on economic growth within the Anthropocene. Economic growth is built into the economic system that currently dominates. It obeys an outdated, radical imaginary: that of human progress as the triumphant denial of the limits of the biosphere. This imaginary needs to be replaced by a new one. The main task for social science in this day and age is to reflect on and design viable, thriving, (...) non-growing economies. (shrink)
In what sense can we aim to moralize the very system upon which we rely to formulate our notions of morality? This is the most fundamental issue raised by any discussion around the “moralization of capitalism”. In an even more general manner, one could express the issue in terms of the puzzle of second-order morality: How exactly is it possible to pass a moral judgment on our categories of moral judgment? How can our norms of morality be said to be (...) “immoral”, thus calling for “(re-)moralization”? This puzzle rests, of course, on a particular version of historicism to which I will subscribe here: Capitalism as a system of practical interaction structures, and hence as a culture, has evolved out of moral imperatives and hence must be seen as a reflection and an enactment, rather than a violation, of these moral imperatives. Thus, as long as the moral norms and the interaction structures remain congruent, there is no straightforward to way to call capitalism “immoral”. The only legitimate reason to issue a call for its “(re-)moralization” is if this congruence has come undone; but how can that be, if not because some set of processes internal to capitalism has actually altered either (a) the structures of interaction, or (a’) the norms of morality, or (a”) both, in such a way that (b) they have become maladjusted and (c) this maladjustment is actually experienced as such by agents who are able to effect the required readjustments? But how can such internal processes be triggered? This is the puzzle of second-order morality when applied to capitalism. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to explore and question the potential of John Rawls’s theory of social justice as a tool for building a critical theory of society. My claim will be that Rawls’s approach to social theory cannot provide such a tool; as it will turn out, it faces very deep problems when faced with the task becoming a critical theory of society. Such problems originate mainly in the cognitive and epistemic structure of the “original position”. This, I (...) believe, is bound to pose problems in the future for those of us who seek to make a politically radical use of the legacy of Rawlsian theory (see, e.g., Van Parijs, 1995 or Callinicos, 2000). By a critical theory of society, I mean a theory which aims not at describing the social world “as it is” in order to explain or understand it, but at describing the social world in such a way that the description itself triggers forces for social change within the social world being described. This is, indeed, the meaning of “critical”: to describe a state of affairs in such a way as to throw it into crisis by that very.. (shrink)
Cet article analyse la manière dont l'engagement moral individuel est traité dans la théorie de la justice de John Rawls. En partant de la distinctionclé entre rationnel et raisonnable, la notion de « conformité » est décomposée en plusieurs strates. A une forme minimale de la conformité s'ajoutent des notions d'adhésion faible et d'adhésion forte. Diverses maximes de comportement individuel sont discutées, qui correspondent à différents degrés d'exigence morale. L'article s'achève sur une réflexion plus large sur le lien entre engagement (...) individuel et tolérance dans la société rawlsienne. This article analyzes the way in which individual moral commitment is treated in John Rawls's theory of justice. It starts with the central distinction between rational and reasonable and divides the notion of « compliance » into several components. Next to a minimal form of compliance, there is a weak form of adhesion and a strong one. Various maxims for individual behavior are discussed, corresponding to various degrees of moral demandingness. The article closes with a broader reflection on the link between moral commitment and tolerance in the Rawlsian society. (shrink)
This paper argues that the question of the compatibility between competition and solidarity needs to be clarified by distinguishing a variety of possible normative frameworks. Using a core metaphor of a race between runners hired by stadiums, I develop and discuss three ethical frameworks: the emergentist perspective, which considers that competition is in itself the locus of solidarity; the social-democratic perspective, which views solidarity as the main counterweight to the abrasive effects of competition – without, however, calling into question the (...) system that generates this competition; and the oppositional perspective, which considers solidarity as an implication of the desire to assist the victims of asymmetrical social power, unfairly distributed through competition, and therefore sees ‘genuine’ solidarity as a means to subvert competitive logic itself. In each case, I deconstruct the fundamental ‘axioms’ that underlie the approach, and I gradually demonstrate why there are compelling ethical arguments for a radical subversion of the logic of competition within a framework of ‘genuine’ solidarity. Thus, while the social-democratic perspective trumps the emergentist perspective, it is in turn trumped by the oppositional perspective. The basic idea is that competition which is statically fair, tends to become dynamically unfair, revealing a deep-lying source of structural alienation. This requires a renewed view of the nature of agents’ rationality, however, and an abandonment of some cherished beliefs and prejudices concerning the alleged fairness of competition in market economies. (shrink)
In this paper, we challenge the usual argument which says that competition is a fair mechanism because it ranks individuals according to their relative preferences between effort and leisure. This argument, we claim, is very insufficient as a justification of fairness in competition, and we show that it does not stand up to scrutiny once various dynamic aspects of competition are taken into account. Once the sequential unfolding of competition is taken into account, competition turns out to be unfair even (...) if the usual fairness argument is upheld. We distinguish between two notions of fairness, which we call U-fairness, where ‘U’ stands for the ‘usual’ fairness notion, and S-fairness, where ‘S’ stands for the ‘sequential’ aspect of competition. The sequential unfairness of competition, we argue, comprises two usually neglected aspects connected with losses of freedom: first of all, there is an ‘eclipse’ of preferences in the sense that even perfectly calculating competitors do not carry out a trade-off between effort and ranking; and second, competitive dynamics leads to single-mindedness because the constraints on the competitors’ choices always operate in the sense of increased competitiveness and, therefore, in the direction of an increased effort requirements. We argue (1) that competition is S-unfair even if it is U-fair, (2) that as S-unfairness increases, the ethical relevance of U-fairness itself vanishes, so that (3) by focusing as they usually do on U-fairness alone, economists neglect a deeper aspect of unfairness. (shrink)
This article presents the basic building blocks, as well as the main implications, of Kate Raworth’s “Doughnut economics,” arguing that it is an essential tool for navigating the Anthropocene and for understanding what variables, both ecological and social, need to be adjusted and by how much. We show that Raworth’s “growth agnosticism” is not as problematic as it might appear, and we offer some elements of reflection on whether “the Doughnut” leads to post-capitalism.
This article argues that a main hidden driver of the Anthropocene is existential—namely the wholesale denial, in capitalist civilization, of human fragility and mortality. Mainstream economics, which unthinkingly validates the unboundedness of human wants and the necessity for open-ended growth, must give way to existential ecological economics—an approach that recognizes that capitalism, which clearly propels the overshoot of material flows, is itself a device for denying and repressing deep human fears about death.
This paper investigates a manner for taking a stand against the current naturalistic tendencies within the current form of globalized capitalism that see it merely as the logical expression of triumphant market forces working upon productive assets. Taking a cue from the French concept of alter-mondalisme, as opposed to the English syntagma anti-globalism, this paper argues that our current form of globalised capitalism is simply a form having no specific ontological necessity – i.e., globalism as it now is, is not (...) the inevitable result of natural forces, but is rather a complex emergent entity. Cosmopolitical citizenship, characterized by critical global citizens, means principled refusal to accept this entity as determining the possible and the impossible. Instead of being the creature of simply naturalistic, neo-liberal economics, capital is a cultural system, a social relationship based on a particular political power structure. Thinking otherwise makes issues of social justice meaningless within capitalism. The current concentration of economic power tends to spread certain behavioral norms that sustain it, which is a systemic phenomenon that can be called the cultural system of capitalism, a shared ideology.Viewing it such, we can move from an ethical study of the rational foundations of moral norms to a political reflection on the democratic construction of social norms. Hence, democratic experimentalism can arise, in which various possibilities and norms of one subset or region of capitalist interaction are played off against each other subset or region in a subversive attempt at forming new possibilities for organizing economic and political processes. This will also protect the plurality of ways of life from overweening global capitalism: another world is possible. (shrink)
In this paper, we challenge the usual argument which says that competition is a fair mechanism because it ranks individuals according to their relative preferences between effort and leisure. This argument, we claim, is very insufficient as a justification of fairness in competition, and we show that it does not stand up to scrutiny once various dynamic aspects of competition are taken into account. Once the sequential unfolding of competition is taken into account, competition turns out to be unfair even (...) if the usual fairness argument is upheld. We distinguish between two notions of fairness, which we call U-fairness, where 'U' stands for the 'usual' fairness notion, and S-fairness, where 'S' stands for the 'sequential' aspect of competition. The sequential unfairness of competition, we argue, comprises two usually neglected aspects connected with losses of freedom: first of all, there is an 'eclipse' of preferences in the sense that even perfectly calculating competitors do not carry out a trade-off between effort and ranking; and second, competitive dynamics leads to single-mindedness because the constraints on the competitors' choices always operate in the sense of increased competitiveness and, therefore, in the direction of an increased effort requirements. We argue (1) that competition is S-unfair even if it is U-fair, (2) that as S-unfairness increases, the ethical relevance of U-fairness itself vanishes, so that (3) by focusing as they usually do on U-fairness alone, economists neglect a deeper aspect of unfairness. (shrink)
Ronald Dworkin's theory of equality of resources draws heavily on conceptual tools developed in economic theory. His criterion for a just distribution of resources is closely connected with two economic ideas: first, the idea that a distribution of resources reflects a concern for equality if it is envy-free; second, the idea that such an envy-free distribution of resources is attainable as a competitive equilibrium from equal split. The objective of this paper is to show that the criterion of equality of (...) resources has been misinterpreted by normative economics, largely due to Dworkin's own lack of precision, and that it needs to be reformulated in order to be intelligible. The dimensions along which the reformulation is needed concern the nature of the preferences used in what Dworkin calls the ‘envy test’ and the nature of the envy test itself. (shrink)
Economics is often believed to be a `value-free' discipline, and even an `a-moral' one. My aim is to demonstrate that homo œconomicus can recover his ethical nature if the philosophical roots of contemporary economics are laid bare. This, however, requires us to look for an alternative foundation for the idea of `social order,' a foundation which economics is ill-equipped to provide because of its exclusive focus on calculative rationality. But a new ethical perspective on homo œconomicus and on the manner (...) in which he chooses his actions is possible. My aim here is to make this new perspective explicit.Two claims lie at the heart of this paper. The first claim is that economics as practised nowadays — that is, as a discipline concerned with the analysis of the interactions between individual decisions and the collective effects of these interactions — is a particular form of metaphysics, based on a particular articulation between self-centredness and other-centredness. The second claim is that, unbeknownst to the vast majority of economists, the basic principle of individual optimization contains the seed of a radical reformulation of what the emergence of `social order' is all about. More specifically, economics will be claimed to be a specific metaphysical discipline based on the monadological worldview inherited from Leibniz and re-arranged to fit the empiricist bias of 18th-century thinkers, and the principle of individual optimization will be claimed to be compatible with a very different metaphysical view of the human subject, a view which `turns subjectivity inside out', so to speak, and treats optimizing calculation as a response rather than as an initiative.The first claim is rather general, and not completely new — it has been hinted at, for example, by Jon Elster in an early book written in French, but it has received precious little attention among economists so far, with the result that economics has become increasingly blind to the philosophical roots of its most fundamental views on individual decision and on social order. The second claim applies to economics and homo œconomicus a general suggestion coming from Alain Renaut, that we ought to make good use of the accusations of incoherence voiced against the monadological scheme in order to re-think the way in which human subjectivity works. Renaut, however, remains at the level of the history of the philosophical concept of subjectivity. Although he does, in passing, make some mention of possible implications for the social sciences, he never goes into the full analysis of what the critique of monadological metaphysics implies for modern theories of society, and for economics in particular. One of my main goals here is to fill this gap.Let me now be more specific about the steps of my analysis. Defending my two claims will require, first of all, a rigorous understanding of the basic methodological stance adopted by economics, namely the idea that social order `emanates' from a bunch of self-centred subjectivities making separate optimizing decisions. Accordingly, in Section 2, I will trace out the analogy that exists between Leibnizian monadology and modern-day economics. The aim there will be to show that economics, unwittingly but for nevertheless deep ethical reasons, has remained `stuck' in a very specific metaphysical position which virtually no contemporary philosophy of subjectivity any longer acknowledges. Section 3, then, will show how the combination of monadology and empiricism which still prevails in contemporary economics can be overcome by entering an altogether distinct philosophical domain characterized by the primacy of Other over Self.While this alternative philosophical stance has experienced a surge of interest in recent decades, it has left the social sciences, and particularly economics, completely untouched. The reason is, I will claim, that this strand of philosophy adopts a form of methodological altruism which stands in contrast both to the methodological individualism of economics and to the methodological holism of various strands of post-Durkheimian sociology. In Section 4, then, I analyze some of the far-reaching consequences for economics which would flow from taking into account `non-I' motives which are not `We' motives, i.e., motives for action which are neither mere holist pastings onto individualism nor mere individualist mitigations of holism.The principle of choice of action through individual optimization will appear as the `hinge' between two worlds: although initially anchored within a worldview where social coexistence is a by-product of individual calculations, the idea of optimization will be seen to be compatible with a very different, and indeed almost reversed worldview, one where individual calculations emerge as by-products of social coexistence — the term `social' being itself radically re-thought in a non-holistic direction.The aim of my analysis, ultimately, is to formulate a challenge for contemporary economics and its implicit view of the interaction between individual and society: Can the combination of monadological and empiricist thinking so strongly ingrained in economics be overcome in the direction of a radically `other-oriented' view of the human subject? Many economists will doubtless believe it cannot; however, they will now, at least, have to explain why they hold to the older view and hence they will have to uncover their often hidden ethical and metaphysical presuppositions. I view this not as an undue disturbance or as mere conceptual hair-splitting, but as a timely opportunity to clarify some deep philosophical issues which haunt economics. (shrink)