Recent efforts to go beyond gross domestic product as a measure of economic performance raise important questions about the nature of the economy, including: what is the best measure of a sound, flourishing economy, and what is the purpose of ‘doing well’ in economic terms? One possible measure of the soundness of an economy is the extent to which it results in better lives for humans – a thought that has inspired measures such as the Human Development Index, among others. In the bigger picture, a sound, flourishing economy should also be consistent with good, and perhaps optimal, lives for non-humans, and well-functioning ecosystems. On this measure, economics should not be an altogether anthropocentric enterprise. To go beyond anthropocentric notions of economic performance, a degree of integration between economics, philosophy and biology is required, with Umwelt theory and biosemiotics indicating a way forward. A merely economic outlook can easily lead to the commodification of each and every organism and natural resource, thus neglecting the agency, interests and intrinsic value of animals and other non-humans. To truly ‘serve all’ in an Anthropocene-era world, where the living conditions of practically all organisms on the planet are affected by human economic activities, economists need to acknowledge that there are economic stakeholders beyond humans. This would make economics more compatible with current outlooks in normative ethics with regard to the value of animals, biodiversity, etc., and could be part of a radical reconceptualization of the nature of the economy, in which economic value is situated within value theory in a wider sense.
The author is a member of two programme areas for research at the University of Stavanger –‘Philosophy and subjectivity’ (IN-11746) and ‘The Greenhouse: An Environmental Humanities Initiative at University of Stavanger’ (IN-11621).
T⊘nnessen, M. (2020), "The True Value of ‘Doing Well’ Economically", Formica, P. and Edmondson, J. (Ed.) Innovation and the Arts: The Value of Humanities Studies for Business, Emerald Publishing Limited, pp. 91-109. https://doi.org/10.1108/978-1-78973-885-820201005Download as .RIS
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