Economics and Philosophy

Essays

Human Needs, Consumption, and Social Policy

Ayşe Buğraa1 and Gürol Irzika1

a1 Boğaziçi University

From its early origins to the present, the development of mainstream economic theory has taken a direction which has excluded the analysis of human needs as a basis for social policy. The problems associated with this orientation are increasingly recognized both by economists and non-economists. As Sen (1985) points out, it is indeed strange for a discipline concerned with the well-being of people to neglect the question of needs. Currently, some writers such as Doyal and Gough (1991), post-Keynesian economists such as Lavoie (1994), and those such as Davis and O'Boyle (1994) who work in the newly emerging school of social economics have begun to address the question of human needs, especially in relation to problems of policy assessment and evaluation. The approaches of some development economists who have dealt with similar issues were also instrumental in drawing attention to the significance of the long-neglected concept of needs (Stewart, 1985; Cole and Miles, 1984).