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Economic theory and human need

Special issue call for papers from International Journal of Social Economics

Background Information

This journal was founded to explore the ideas associated with an economics of needs. The suggestion implied was that the economic systems devised to optimize production or maximize the gross domestic or gross national product might fail to meet human needs, at least if human needs were understood to be the needs of all human beings. In the intervening decades questions have been raised by people who think that not all needs are human. There are animals and plants whose interests were raised by Bertrand Russell in a famous warning about atomic wars and whose interests have since aroused organised concern around the world. But the idea of need itself remains difficult to define and the idea of a totality of the needs of all human beings harder still. The idea of the needs of a totality of all living creatures adds massive additional complications. We are seeking papers which explore these questions:
• How successful can we be at establishing needs?
• How successful is any economic system at meeting them?
• How can we devise an economic theory which will attend to needs of human beings or living things? 
• How would we test such a theory?
• What current economic research bears on these questions?

If you think, as some people do, that an economics based on human need is a flawed idea and that an economics based on achieving the Pareto optimum (or some other scheme for optimizing production) is also unfeasible, we would welcome papers exploring alternatives.


We are looking above all for well argued theoretical and conceptual papers. They can be framed within what we know of economic theory, on philosophical understandings, or within conceptual schemes employed in any of the social sciences. Historical papers are also welcomed. Despite the emphasis on theory, papers with an empirical base in economics, any of the social sciences, or historical fact which can find a place. That includes studies of the effectiveness of institutions which have their bases in responses to human need if they include examinations of the clarity of the ideas of need involved and assessments of their effectiveness.

Submission Guidelines
Deadline: 30th June 2010
Submissions should be sent to Adam Smith, Managing Editor, at: [email protected]
The Editor, Leslie Armour, will have general oversight and qualified readers will review submissions.
Further information can be found at the journal homepage: 

About the Journal

IJSE is a long established journal with over 35 years of publication history. The journal aims to provide its readers with a unique forum for the exchange and sharing of information in this complex area of economics. The journal presents the social-economic problems, as expressed by economists, philosophers, political scientists, historians and business academics, with their consequent ethical considerations.
Increasing economic interaction, allied to the social and political changes evident in many parts of the world, has created a need for more sophisticated understanding of the social, political and cultural influences which govern our societies. The journal, with its philosophical discussions of research findings, combined with commentary on international developments in social economics, makes a genuinely valuable contribution to current understanding of the subject and the growth of new ideas.