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Human development theory

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Title: Human development theory  
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Subject: Uneconomic growth, Development, Amartya Sen, Productivism, Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative
Collection: Development, Heterodox Economics, Sustainability
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Human development theory

Human development theory is a theory that merges older ideas from ecological economics, welfare economics, and feminist economics. It seeks to avoid the overt normative politics of most so-called "green economics" by justifying its theses strictly in ecology, economics and sound social science, and by working within a context of globalization.[1]


Like ecological economics it focuses on measuring well-being and detecting uneconomic growth that comes at the expense of human health. However, it goes further in seeking not only to measure but to optimize well-being by some explicit modeling of how social capital and instructional capital can be deployed to optimize the overall value of human capital in an economy - which is itself part of an ecology. The role of individual capital within that ecology, and the adaptation of the individual to live well within it, is a major focus of these theories.[2][3]

The most notable proponents of human development theory are Mahbub ul Haq, Üner Kirdar and Amartya Sen. Amartya Sen asked, in Development as Freedom, "what is the relationship between our wealth and our ability to live as we would like?"

This question cannot be answered strictly from an energy, feminist, family, environmental health, peace, social justice, or ecological well-being point of view, although all of these may be factors in our happiness, and if tolerances of any of these are violated seriously, it would seem impossible to be happy at all.

Accordingly, human development theory is a major synthesis that is probably not confined within the bounds of conventional economics or political science, nor even the political economy that relates the two.

Another angle is Sustainable Human Development: Triple Bottom line ecology-economy-social can be translated to human dimensions as:

  • Human economy: Sustainable action - the ability to perform well and on long term (stress, priority, focus and time management)
  • Human social dimension: Sustainable relations - the ability to sustain relations and go through ordeals together (family, teams, clients, stakeholders)
  • Human ecology: Health, self-awareness, vocation, excellence, talent, etc


  1. ^ "The Library of Economics and Liberty". (Econlib). 
  2. ^ "PsychCrawler". The American Psychological Association. 
  3. ^ "Classics in the History of Psychology". Classics in the History of Psychology. 
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