Towards an Economics of Wellbeing. What would economics look like if it were focused on human wellbeing

Dr Nicky Pouw, University of Amsterdam

There is growing concern in economics that presently dominant frameworks no longer provide a way of adequately addressing and analysing the problems of today’s globalising and rapidly changing world. This article makes a number of fundamental proposals about how we might reframe economics to refocus it on human wellbeing. It develops arguments for a change in the basic ontological proposition and for the need to see ‘the economy’ as an instituted process. The paper argues that a pluralist approach to understanding the economy is necessary. Drawing on a range of contributions to heterodox economics, the paper argues that resource allocation in society needs to have a broader scope than is present in mainstream economics; it proposes a rethinking of economic agency and provides a critique of rational behaviour that rests on shifting the emphasis from welfare to wellbeing. Acknowledging human wellbeing as a multi-dimensional concept, the relationship between the wellbeing of the person and collective wellbeing is reconsidered and the methodological implications for the issue of aggregation are discussed. The article seeks to serve as a point of departure for formulating new research questions, exploring the relationships between human wellbeing and economic development, and for analysing economic behaviour and interactions in such a way as to bring us closer to people’s realities on the ground.

About the speaker
Dr Nicky Pouw is a development economist with over 20 years of research experience in international development studies, mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa (Ghana, Burkina Faso, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania), and Sri Lanka. Her PhD was on the Characterization of Poverty in Rural Uganada, where she conducted 1,000 farmers’ surveys and designed a mixed-methodology approach to poverty based on priority patterns over non-income indicators. Currently, she manages two NWO-WOTRO projects and is also involved in constructing of inclusive development indicators for African countries, to initiative new research on how to include the poorest of the poor, and in other research projects on gender and economics, an economics of wellbeing, and social in- and exclusion among the poorest of the poor and vulnerable youth. She is editor of the book Local Governance and Poverty in Developing Nations (2012, with Isa Baud) by Routledge and Guest Editor of the special issue on Inclusive Development of the European Journal on Development Research, August 2015.

Venue: Conference room

Date: 17 December 2015

Time: 12:30 - 13:30