Cultural Values, Economic Growth and Development

Journal of Business Ethics 84 (3):297 - 311 (2009)
Neo-liberal economics is built upon the claim that the freedom to pursue one's self-interest and rational choice leads to economic growth and development. Against this background neo-liberal economists and policymakers endeavoured to universalise this claim, and insistently argue that appropriate economic policies produce the same results regardless of cultural values. Accordingly, developing countries are often advised to embrace the neo-liberal economic credo for them to escape from the trap of underdevelopment. However, the economic success of South East Asia on the one hand and the failure of economic development in sub-Saharan Africa on the other, are increasingly proving that the 'economic' argument cannot be taken dogmatically: self-interest and rationality do not seem to be the sufficient explanations for economic development. One other avenue to be taken seriously is the link between cultural values and economic development. After viewing the principle of self-interest against its historico-cultural background, I consider this link in the African context, and argue that, although they cannot be taken as the sole factor, people's cultural beliefs and values are crucial for economic development. Economic growth and development need to be a substantiation of a people's beliefs and values. In African value system, this substantiation could lead to what one would call 'ubuntu economy' in which the state, the markets and the people are all agents, and not patients, in the process of economic growth and development
Keywords economic growth and development  cultural values  self-interest and rational choice  Bantu conception of reality  ubuntu economy
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    Michael Sandel (2003). Liberalism and the Limits of Justice. In Derek Matravers & Jonathan E. Pike (eds.), Debates in Contemporary Political Philosophy: An Anthology. Routledge, in Association with the Open University.

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