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International Journal of Development Issues

The development ethics approach to international development

Nikos Astroulakis,
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10,3 The development ethics approach
to international development
Nikos Astroulakis
214 Department of Economics, University of Crete, Crete, Greece

Purpose Development ethics is an important topic which is often neglected in development studies.
The purpose of the paper is to analyze international development in an ethical-based context using the
approach of development ethics.
Design/methodology/approach The analysis is mainly based on the pioneering work of the
prominent development ethicists and the founder of development ethics as self-conscious area Denis
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Goulet along with recent development ethics literature. In this context, international development is
approached under a holistic ethical manner.
Findings Development ethicists reduce the gap between a conventional perspective of development
and the real needs of humankind. In contrast to mainstream economics view, for development ethics
the true indicator of development is not growth in a narrow sense of material expansion of wellbeing,
but the qualitative enrichment of human beings in all relevant aspects of human life. International
development is preserved as an effort to a better life for individuals and to a good global society for
Research limitations/implications If research is reported on in the paper, this section must be
completed and should include suggestions for future research and any identified limitations in the
research process.
Social implications The proposed ethical goals and strategies are normative judgments which
provide both the notional and practical framework within which international development should be
discussed and policy recommendations could be formulated.
Originality/value The notion of development is redefined on ethical foundations. A conceptual
typology of the development ethics goals and strategies to international development is offered. The
paper can be perceived as a point of departure that scholars and students of international development
and development economics in broad, from both perspectives (orthodox and heterodox), can be
incorporated with ethical matters to international development and benefit from it.
Keywords Development ethics, International development, Ethical goals, Ethical strategies, Ethics,
Paper type General review

1. Introduction
The paper introduces reader to the fundamental principles of development ethics
approach to international development. The present analysis pays significant attention
to Goulets contribution to development ethics approach of international development
and particularly to his targeting on the ethical goals to international development and
the strategies of achieving these goals. In this paper, a synthesis of Goulets literature
and ideas to present a comprehensive ethical proposal for international development
International Journal of Development
Vol. 10 No. 3, 2011 An early version of the paper has been presented at the conference of Business and Economic
pp. 214-232 Society International, July 15-17, 2010, Athens, Greece. The author is grateful to John Marangos,
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Asimina Christoforou, Jorge Prado De Castro Alfaiate, and the two anonymous referees for their
DOI 10.1108/14468951111165359 useful comments and suggestions.
is attempted. The meaning of Goulets (1975, p. vii) work can be summarized as an effort Development
of trusting debates over economic and social development into the arena of ethical ethics
values. Until then, development has been perceived as the end state and economics as
the means to attaining it. In lines of economists and moral philosophers, it was widely
spread the perception that economics was interrelated only with the means, and ethics
only with the ends of development. For Goulet, development is identified both as an end
state and as a means. In the tradition of Goulet, development ethicists interpret 215
international development not only in the level of outcomes but also in the aspect of
ethics as means of the means. This approach has led many development ethicists to the
study of what is called today the ethics of means. As a general rule, development
ethicists community perceives development ethics as an ethical reflection on the ends
and means of local, national and international development.
The present paper contributes to a better identification of the ethical study of
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international development in its contemporary form. I argue that this paper comprises
a ground of agreements than an area of controversies within development ethics. More
broadly, the paper can be received as conceptual navigation to development ethics and
to Denis Goulet, in particular, normative and practical identifications to international
development. In specific, the present study answers to the ethical question of what
is development? thought the development ethics alternative view. To me, the
development ethics approach to international development comprises a novel
paradigm to the ethical study of international development. Wherein, international
development is preserved as an effort to a better life for individuals and to a good
global society for nations. Development ethics is not only a philosophical pattern but
also a practical one. Goulet forms these philosophic and practical tasks to the
investigation of ethical development. The paper clearly codifies these tasks through the
ethical goals and strategies to international development.
To my knowledge no many endeavors to the direction of a conceptual typology of
the development ethics goals and strategies to international development has been
attempted in development ethics literature. As an exception, I can mention a recent
edited volume from Wilber and Dutt (2010) entitled New Directions in Development
Ethics and subtitled Essays in Honor of Denis Goulet. This volume includes essays
from contemporary prominent development ethicists on the principles and path roots
of Denis Goulet and development ethics in conjunction to development economics. The
introductory chapter of this volume by Dutt and Wilber (2010b) surveys Denis Goulets
life and work and his development ethics study and practices. As Dutt and Wilber
(2010b, p. 1) point out:
The field [of development ethics] is a small one in terms of the number of people who have
worked in it, but it is attracting a growing number of adherents both among academics and
development practitioners from all over the world.
Some of these adherents are mentioned in the present paper. Among them, Dower (1988),
Crocker (1991, 1998, 2008), Clark (2002), and Gasper (2006) incorporate ethical issues on
development from the perspective of development ethics in recent times. Dower (1988) is
perhaps one of the first scholars of examining Goulets development ethics from a
philosophical aspect. Gasper (2006) investigates Goulets literature and highlights the
significance of Goulets endowment to philosophical as well as to economic ethics.
Gasper also suggests further incorporation to the fields of development ethics as ethical
IJDI methods, the role of social movement and the pedagogy that first Goulet initiates. Clark
10,3 (2002) places development ethics within development studies and social sciences. Clark
argues for a closer relation of philosophers and social scientists under this new field of
study; the development ethics. To end with, Crocker (1998, 2008) points out that even in
the coherent community of development ethicists, there are areas of consensus as well as
controversies. However, development ethicists community, apart their own positions,
216 accepts Goulets conceptual tradition of assessing development ethics as the ethical
study of values in reflection with local and international development. To this end, in
keeping with a clause which says that good theory leads to better solutions, this study
argues that in case of international development, the study based on development ethics
leads to even better solutions. Thus, this study along with the aforementioned can be
perceived as a point of departure that scholars and students of international
development and development economics in broad, from both perspectives (orthodox
and heterodox), can be incorporated with ethical matters to international development
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and benefited from it.

In terms of structure and conceptual navigation of the paper, after the introductory
section, Section 2 considers the field of development ethics by providing a definition
and its origins. Section 3 presents a necessary discussion on the prologue of the
contemporary ethical aspects of international development and the development ethics
alternative. Section 4 demonstrates Goulets noteworthy role in the formulation of a
development ethics as a distinctive self conscious area of study as well as a synthesis
of Goulets ethical viewpoints to international development. This section also analyzes
the ethical goals of development and the ethical strategies in achieving theses goals
according to Goulets normative and practical determinations. Section 5 concludes the
remarks of the paper.

2. Definition and origins of development ethics

Let me begin the analysis by introducing reader to the identification and the origins of
development ethics that is crucial to understand the development ethics approach to
international development. Development ethics is commonly defined as the ethical
reflection on the ends and means of local, national and international development
(Goulet, 1975; Dower, 1988; Gasper, 2006; Crocker, 2008). Goulet (1975, p. 116) places
ethics as the ends and the means of development for a good society. In his words, ethics
in development must become a means of the means: a transfiguration of means into
something more than purely technical, social, or political instruments. From this
perspective, Crocker (1991, 1998, 2008) approaches development ethics as an ethical
deliberation on the ends and means of socioeconomic change in poor countries and
regions and mainly focuses on the element of poverty and the economic, social and
political division between rich and poor countries north and south based on moral
issues. This ethical reflection not only takes the form of a philosophical discourse, but
also offers a space of analysis, evaluation and action regarding the trajectory of
societies, with special reference to suffering, injustice and exclusion within societies and
between societies at a global scale (Gasper and Truong, 2005, pp. 373-4). To this effort,
development ethics combines tasks and methodological instruments from a variety of
scientific fields such as economics, political sciences, religious studies, anthropology,
environmental studies, and ecology. Thus, it can be characterized as a multidisciplinary
area of study or, as Gasper (2006, p. 1) states, an interdisciplinary meeting place.
Development ethics accepts the principles of the interdisciplinarity and bridges the Development
social sciences, philosophy, and humanities, taking under consideration the economic, ethics
political, cultural, institutional, ideological, spiritual and ethical aspects of individuals
and society. Dutt and Wilber (2010b, p. 14) state that Development ethics also has
important implications for the methods of analysis and how one views the relation
between analytical views of the economy and the real world. Further, for Goulet (1997,
p. 1168), development ethics functions as a kind of disciplined eclecticism [. . .] 217
eclectic in its choice of subject matter but disciplined in its study of it. By combining
multidimensional knowledge and practices it also can be defined as a novel human
development paradigm.
Regarding its origins as a distinctive field of study, development ethics can be
characterized as a relatively new field (Goulet, 1975, 1995, 1997, 2006; Clark, 2002). The
cultivation of moral and ethical issues regarding development and the formulation of
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development ethics as such came to the forefront in late 1960s in the writings of Denis
Goulet and particularly to his leading book The Cruel Choice: A New Concept in Theory
of Development, first published in 1971 (second edition in 1975). Even though
development ethics has been identified as a distinctive field of study in the middle of
twentieth century, it seems to have deeper origins. Goulet (1995, 1997, 2006) identifies the
forerunners of development ethics as the social leader Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948) in
India, the Swedish development economist Gunnar Myrdal (1898-1987) and his teacher
French socio-economist, philosopher and Dominican priest Louis Joseph Lebret
For Goulet, Mohandas Gandhi is the pioneer of development ethics due to his
initiation of social planning and institutional reform in transforming Indian society.
His social planning theory and practices are based on a strong premise of an
equilibrium between human needs and wants. Gandhi stated:
[. . .] there are enough goods in the poorest Indian village to meet the needs of all, but not
enough goods in all of India to satisfy the greed of each one (Goulet, 2006, p. 192).
Gandhi not only advocated but also established in India the provision of basic needs
over the multiplication of wants (Goulet, 1997, p. 1162) that is one of the essentials
tasks of development ethics. Further, Gandhi integrates ethical development theory
with applied social practices. According to Das (1979, p. 59) one of the main points of
Gandhis social planning theory is:
[. . .] the coordination of the economic system [. . .] in terms of three types of planning
processes: (a) the area development plans of local communities and clusters, (b) the marketing
and reinvestment planning of the cooperative structure, and (c) centralized planning of large
industries, the three processes being made to interact in a hierarchical indicative planning
system of cluster/district/zone levels.
Gandhis struggle against poverty, through economic and social planning, places him
as one of the forerunners of development ethics.
Also important to development ethics are the writings of Gunnar Myrdal. In his
article, What is Development, Myrdal (1974, pp. 729-30) states that:
[. . .] by development I meant the movement upward of the entire social system [. . .] This
social system encloses, besides the so-called economic factor, all noneconomic factors,
including all sorts of consumption by various groups of people; consumption provided
IJDI collectively; educational and health facilities and levels; the distribution of power to society;
and more generally economic, social and political stratifications; broadly speaking
10,3 institutions and attributes.
He also investigates the methodological problem of objectivity in social research in
connection with economic world dualism. In relation to objectivity, Myrdal holds a
critical position on economic dualism between Western and non-Western societies.
218 In Myrdals (1969, p. 11) words the use of Western theories, models, and concepts in
the study of economic development in the South Asian countries [. . .] is a cause of bias
seriously distorting that study. This statement indicates Myrdals support for a
different development pattern, different means and goals to any development process.
Both his viewpoints as to what is development and worldwide economic dualism also
place Myrdal in the forefront of development ethics.
The third precursor of development ethics according to Goulet is his teacher
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Louis Joseph Lebret. Goulet shares with his teacher a common perspective to
development. Development is defined as the basic question of values and the creation
of a new civilization (Goulet, 1995, p. 6). Lebrets basic contribution to development
ethics is his study of needs in development processes. Needs should assist societal
solidarity, resource sustainability, and the integral human necessity of all individuals
and societies to a decent existence. Lebret codified three categories of needs. First, there
are essential subsistence needs (food, clothing, housing, health care, and the like).
Second, are the needs related to comfort and the facilities which render life easier
(transportation, leisure, labor saving-devices, pleasant surroundings, and so on).
Third, there are needs related to human fulfilment or transcendence, whose
satisfaction confers heightened value on human lives (cultural improvement, deeper
spiritual life, enriching friendships, loving relationships, rewarding social intercourse,
and so on) (Goulet, 2006, p. 57).
The key ethical question of what is a good life? that development ethics
investigates traces back to ancient Greek philosophers and particularly to Aristotles
Nicomachean Ethics and Politics (Aristotle in Crisp Roger edition, 2000; Ross, 1995). Sen
(1987, p. 3) reminds us that Aristotle relates the subject of economics to human ends,
referring to its concern with wealth and that economics relates ultimately to the
study of ethics and that of politics, and this point of view is further developed in
Aristotles Politics. In this vein, Clark (2002, pp. 830-1) has argued that in ethical terms
discussions of what makes a good life date back at least to Aristotles Nicomachean
ethics and the ancient Greek tradition. Marangos and Astroulakis (2010) investigate
the contribution of the Aristotelian philosophy to development ethics. They argue that
Aristotles notion of eudaimonia a synonym for happiness or human flourishing
has directly influenced the way that development ethics perceives good life.
Development ethics implicitly espouses eudaimonia as the end state of human
actions and advances this concept to the macro level of the global world (Marangos
and Astroulakis, 2010, p. 556). Similar to development ethicists, Aristotles notion of
politics, that encapsulates economic, social, cultural and ethical aspects, is perceived
as the means to achieving the good society. To this end, even though development
ethics is a new area of study, with direct forerunners (Gandhi, Myrdal and Lebret) in
the nineteenth and twentieth century, its origins as regard to its perspective on the
good society can be traced to ancient Greek philosophy and particular to Aristotles
ethical tradition.
3. Ethical aspects to international development and the development ethics Development
alternative ethics
This section investigates some of the contemporary ethical aspects to international
development in lines of orthodoxy and heterodoxy during twentieth and twenty-first
centuries and the development ethics most important alternative viewpoints. Taking
into account the limited space of a paper it is almost impossible to cite an extended
literature on ethics and development economics and even more impossible on ethics 219
and economics. This section aims to introduce reader to some of the key ethical debates
of international development and leads him/her to development ethics approach to
international development.
However, due to the importance of the discussion on economics and ethics for
international development I would like to indicatively mention six selective book titles in
the contemporary literature that investigate the theme with a pluralistic and holistic
manner within social sciences. First, Economics and Ethics? edited by Groenewegen
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(1996). This edition is comprised of studies, from an economist and philosophers

perspective, against the background of a long utilitarian tradition in mainstream
economics. Second, Ethics, Economics and Politics by Little (2004). Littles book main
interesting is the relation of economic and politics with moral philosophy. Third, Ethics
and the Market: Insights from Social Economics edited by Clary et al. (2006) is a collection
of studies to the relation of ethical values and market functions in a social economics
tradition. Fourth, to the same direction, Graafland (2007) in his book Economics Ethics
and the Market explores the ethical and methodological strategy of economics against
ethical considerations of a mainstream economics free market operation. Fifth, The
Economics of Ethics and the Ethics of Economics by Brennan and Eusepi (2009). In this
book, authors offer an interdisciplinary view of a variety of subject in the field of ethics,
economics and politics. Sixth, Economics and Ethics: An Introduction by Dutt and
Wilber (2010a). It is a well-written introductory book that navigates reader to moral
philosophy and economic theory and their reflections. Apart the term ethics in their title
the common characteristic of the aforementioned literature is that authors keep a critical
stand against to, let me call it, the very positive site of mainstream economics and the
hypothesis of the value neutrality of economics as a science.
To the very positive site of mainstream economics, international development has
been chiefly perceived as a straightforward economic issue. Mainstream economists,
policy makers, governors, interregional organizations and so on have in most cases
confronted the development problem within its global dimension in an instrumental and
administrational way. In particular, during the twentieth century, the technological
expansion, the boost of the production, the sense that people could overcome nature, led
many mainstream economists, government officials and development planners to an
engineering[1] approach to the concept of international development. International
development was perceived as an absolutely measurable matter, as a synonymous of
economic growth, the variation of gross domestic product for instance. Ethical inquiries
on the concept of development were viewed mostly as an affair for philosophers and
humanists than economists. To share an example regarding the debate within ethics and
economics, Robbins (1945, p. 148) asserts that:
[. . .] [u]nfortunately it does not seem logically possible to associate the two studies in any
form but mere juxtaposition. Economics deal with ascertainable facts; ethics with valuations
and obligations. The two fields of enquiry are not on the same plane of discourse.
IJDI Robbins expresses the vein in economic study that perceives economics as a science
10,3 which takes place after the elucidation of moral and ethical propositions.
Even though mainstream international development theories and practices have
followed, in large extent, the stratum of amoralism to international development,
ethical aspects never quit to influence and to be influenced by development thinkers.
In lines of social sciences, in any tradition, heterodox or orthodox, they follow, the
220 perception that economic policy as well as economic efficiency hinges on ethics has
gradually been established in works such as Polyani (1944), Boulding (1969), Arrow
(1994), Hirsch (1976), Sen (1974), Hirschman (1985), Hausman and McPherson (1993).
More precisely, Hausman and McPherson (1993, pp. 672-8) codify the reasons why
economists should be interested in moral questions. Accordingly:
the morality of agents affects their behavior and as a consequence the economic
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welfare economics lies on morals presumptions;
public policies are driven by moral commitments which should be linked with
economic results; and finally
positive and normative economics are often intertwined, so that even positive
concerns contain moral presuppositions.

The authors argue that, economists who refuse to dirty their hands with ethical
matters will not know what technical problem to investigate (p. 672). Other influential
studies in the social science perspective within the context of an ethical justification of
development include those of Seer (1972), Griffin (1986), Bruton (1990), and Qizilbash
(1996). It would be unfair not to underline that in contemporary economic thought,
development is broadly defined as economic growth plus social change. A strong
supporter of this approach to development is the United Nations which speaks for
economic and social development. The concept of a human development paradigm is
extensively accepted. According to Haq (2008), Founder of the Human Development
Report, [t]he basic purpose of development is to enlarge peoples choices [. . .] The
objective of development is to create an enabling environment for people to enjoy long,
healthy and creative lives. In our times, as stated in the lines of the official planner of
United Nations, humanness is at the core of the discussion.
The contribution of Amartya Sen is crucial to the introduction of ethical
justifications and humanistic approach to social sciences, economics as well as
development studies and international policy making (Sen, 1974, 1980, 1981, 1984,
1987, 1999). Sen is one of the central figures having an influence to the equity issue
within theories of justice. He also contributes to the ethical affairs by perceiving the
expansion of freedom as both the primary end and the principal means of development.
Sen (1987) in his influential book On Ethics and Economics draws a bridge across
ethical matters and economic rationality. He advocates that the study of moral
philosophy is inevitably necessary to the study of economics. Sens most important
contributions in this area lie in his critique of opulence and utility as providing
appropriate meanings of development. Sen (1999) pays significance attention to the
notion of development as freedom. Along with Nussbaum (2000), Sen contributes to
international development policy making by inserting the concepts of functioning and
a capability approach to international development. There is a vast discussion of Sens
literature on ethical development as well the need for further investigation. Fine (2004), Development
for instance, highlights the significance of Sens contribution to the ethical study of ethics
economics as well as development and underlines the need for further study on ethical
development within social sciences.
As I have mentioned, the ethical study of development mainly includes the
discussion between means and ends. In lines of heterodoxy there are those that
advocate the coexistence of ethical justifications and humanistic ideas with rational 221
economic methodology. Hardison and Myers (1964, p. 13) underline that:
[. . .] there need be no conflict between the economists and the humanists [. . .] The
development of man for himself may still be considered the ultimate end but economic
progress can also be one of the principal means of attaining it.
Clark (2002) also suggests a closer relation of philosophers and social scientists in the
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field of development. He argues that even a great attempt has been made towards this
direction; more empirical work is needed in order for ethical considerations (such as
what is good life) to be adjusted to real development practices. Mainstream economics,
in turn, confronts development as an end state that of Westernized type of development
and development economics, in the form of economic growth theory, as the means of
achieving development. This perspective hides a mainstream economic ideological and
ethical imperialism to international development. Development is a pre-determined
notion and the means of attaching it are also pre-determined procedure from the
developed nations and groups of power.
Historical analysis has shown that this mainstream economics approach to
international development cannot provide satisfactory answers to the development
problem. It is now apparent that development does not deliver economic well-being to
all nations and peoples: in its distribution of benefits, it is not just (Goulet, 2006, p. 190).
Mainstream economists have posed the problem. They have also measured it. But they
do not seem to solve it. Contemporary worldwide reality proves that no considerable
distance has been covered with regard to ordinary problems such as water scarcity,
famine, and bad sanitary conditions in the developing third world. At the same time,
within developed countries, new problems come to the fore, with massive consumption
on the one side and new massive social groups under the poverty line on the other.
Moreover, on an international scale, even in cases that development in terms of growth
or industrial expansion has taken place, e.g. China and/or India, the ecological
destruction is huge. Regional and personal inequality is again at the center of any
international development discourse. For those and many other reasons, as such
sovereignty conflicts, forced human migration, resource exploitation, development
should be re-examined under considerations that arose from the ethical question of
what is development?
Development ethics poses an alternative to this reality. In general, development
ethicists maintain that international development is a societal and individualistic
self-oriented procedure in a global economic, social and geographic reality or more
briefly a globalized world. Further, development ethics offers an answer to the
aforementioned ethical issues by investigating international development in light of
fundamental ethical queries on the meaning of the good life, the foundation of justice in
society and the human stance towards nature.
IJDI In a first effort to precisely define international development, during the progress of
a seminar entitled Ethical issues in development that took place at the city of
10,3 Colombo in Sri Lanka in 1986 (Goulet, 1996, pp. 197-8), it is agreed that any definition
of development should take into account at least the following six conceptual
propositions that might reflect a consensus on how development ethicists incorporate
international development:
222 P1. Economic component, related with wealth, material life conditions (amenities),
and their equal distribution of them.
P2. Social ingredient, connected with social goods as health, housing, education,
employment, etc.
P3. Political dimension, in a sense of the protection of human rights and political
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P4. Cultural elements, with accord to the idea that cultures cultivate peoples
identity and self-esteem.
P5. Ecological soundness, to promote a type of development that respects natural
resources and forces for the restoration of the environment.
P6. System of meaning, which refers to the way that a society perceives beliefs,
symbols and values concerning the historical process and the meaning of life.
In the tradition of development ethics and of Denis Goulet in particular, Dutt and Wilber
(2010b, pp. 10-12) offer a notional typology concerned to the ethical aspects of international
development in four dimensions. Accordingly: first, development should not only mind
about growth or the material well-being of the poor but mainly to the ethical discussion
why one should care about the poor and solidarity among individuals, societies and
nations. Second, environmental protection is important for both sustainability along with
continence of the biological cycle and unity with future generations. Third, the evaluation
of value change is important to any development effort. As authors state:
[. . .] modernizations [implying economic and technological advance] is not the goal if it is
imposed from outside, especially if it destroys values that are of central importance to those
who experiencing development.
Fourth, development discussion should include a variety of themes on the means and
ends of development and peoples participation. As authors cite development occurs
only when people themselves decide what they mean by development. These and
other important aspects such as ethical goals and strategies to international
development are analyzed in the next section thought out Denis Goulets contribution
to development ethics.

4. Denis Goulets contribution to development ethics: ethical goals and

strategies to international development
As his biography[2] proves, the contribution of Denis Goulet is distinctive to
development ethics. Goulet offers the conceptual frame and gives the dimensions of a
self conscious area of study. Thus, Goulet could be considered the father of development
ethics as a self-conscious area of study. His contribution to the interdisciplinary area of
development ethics has been significant (Goulet, 1970, 1971, 1974a, b, 1975, 1976, 1987,
1988, 1989, 1991, 1992a, b, 1995, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2006). Goulet poses a conceptual Development
framework of an ethical conflict in the process of development and his contribution to the ethics
study of development is not only normative but also practical. He offers a novel analysis
of development, from an ethical view, by formulating general principles in almost all
relevant aspects of development: technology for development, ecology and ethics,
culture and tradition, the ethic of aid, ethics of consumption, international issues, justice
and globalization, the role of religion, etcetera. For an overall discussion to Denis Goulets 223
development ethics literature and contribution reader can notice two edited volumes:
Goulet (2006) and Wilber and Dutt (2010).
In Goulet work, the meaning of development is given by the Lebrets phrase human
ascent which encompasses the ascent of all men in their integral humanity including
the economic, biological, psychological, social, cultural, ideological, spiritual, mystical,
and transcendental dimensions (Goulet, 1971, pp. 206-7). From this angle,
development is perceived as many aspects conjointly, simultaneously and
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inextricably an economic and political matter, a social and cultural one, an issue of
resource and environmental management, a question of civilization (Goulet, 1995, p. 2).
According to Gasper (2006, p. 2):
[. . .] [w]ell before Sen, Haq and Nussbaum, he [Goulet] advocated that authentic development
aims toward the realization of human capabilities in all spheres and that economic growth
and technological modernity must be treated as, at best, potential means towards considered
human values, not vice versa.
To the same direction, Dutt and Wilber (2010b, p. 12) argue that:
Goulet anticipated the writing of Sen and others on functioning and capabilities and on the
fulfillment of basic needs by recognizing early on deprivations such as poor health, lack of
education, and lack of self-respect.
In the ethical discussion of development, Goulet highlights a twofold ambiguity
regarding the concept of development. Initially, he ascertains that development is used
either descriptively or normatively. Second, to the perception of development as the
ends of any social change and the means in order to achieve those ends (Goulet, 1992a,
p. 246). In the first case, he places the qualitative and moral elements to the applied
methods in connection with a normative approach (Goulet, 1992a). In the second case,
ethics in development is interpreted as means of means, or as he argues ethics must
somehow get inside the value dynamism of the instruments utilized by development
agents and itself become a mean of mean (Goulet, 1995, p. 25). Goulet purposes that
interfering within political and economic matters, namely economic development and
social change, ethical justifications should not only evaluate the ends of any particular
course of social actions but also the means, economic choices and technical methods for
instance, which have been used in order to attain those ends. In this way, ethics
penetrate into the value context and meaning of any social action. At the end of the
day, the whole development enterprise has to be critically subjected to ethical
considerations. Thus, in response to the question of whether ethics is associated with
end or means of human activity, Goulet (1997, p. 1165) purports that [e]thics is
concerned both with ends and means of human action.
Further, Goulet (1971, 1975, 1995) stresses the importance of the dynamic of value
change in determining what is to be defined as development. In his words,
development is above all a question of values (Goulet, 1971, p. 205).
IJDI Innovation and novel behavior patterns that development brings up usually embarrass
10,3 the value system of a society. A convectional approach to development in terms of social
scientists study and practices confronts values either as aids or as obstacles to
attaining its goals. In other words, development goals are predetermined and values are
used under a functional way by subordinating them. On the contrary, Goulets analysis
looks into dynamics of value change in each society and builds its paradigm on this idea.
224 Societal value systems are threatened by changes and social change is one of the main
components of development. If we accept that development affects values of society and
vice versa, the concept of existence rationality should be investigated. However, what
does this strange phrase existence rationality mean? According to Goulet (1975, p. 188):
[. . .] existence rationality defined as the process by which a society devices a conscious
strategy for obtaining its goals, given its ability to process information and the constrains
weighting upon it.
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More simply, existence rationality is considered to be the value system that exists in
any society and determines the course of action undertaken to serve societal aims. The
core value of existence rationality is to be concerned of the provision of those
ingredients that ensure what any society defines as the good life. Thus, any change
should be integrated in the principle of existence rationality determined by each
society. With other words, innovation and novel behavior patterns can be good only if
they can be adjusted with the value change and the meaning of the good life that
every society espouses. For Goulet, development is perceived as a good which is
subordinated to the meaning of life. Each society gives answers to the fundamental
inquiries of what is good life and what is good society in a distinct and unique way
which is chiefly determined by the value system wherein any society has adopted.
Goulet (1995, p. 27) writes:
[. . .] [t]he discipline of development ethics is the conceptual cement that binds together
multiple diagnoses of problem with their policy implications through an explicit
phenomenological study of values which lays bare the value costs of alternative courses of
What goals ought to be posed and which strategies can be applied in order for these
goals to be achieved, depends on the value system of each society.

Ethical goals and strategies to international development

In his leading book, The Cruel Choice: A New Concept in Theory of Development
(Goulet, 1975 [1971]), Goulet, for first time, identifies three ethical goals, namely, life
sustenance, esteem, and freedom, and demonstrates three ethical strategies
across the development effort, those of:
(1) universal solidarity;
(2) abundance of goods as a prerequisite to peoples humaneness; and
(3) populace representation to the matters of public interest and peoples control
over their destiny.

Ethical goals. Despite the fact that development is a relative good in terms of value
issues, Goulet (1975, 1995) argues that there are three common acceptable universal
values that societies and individuals ought to investigate within a value based context Development
of the good life, namely: ethics
(1) life-sustenance;
(2) esteem; and
(3) freedom

These universal accepted values compose the universal ethical goals of development.
Life-sustenance. It refers to the nurture of life. Goulet (1975, p. 88) points out that:
[. . .] one of developments most important goals is to prolong mens [sic ] lives and render
those men [sic ] less stunted by disease, extreme exposure to natures elements, and
defenselessness against enemies.
The importance of life sustaining goods (e.g. food, shelter, healing or medicine) is
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generally acknowledged by all societies (Goulet, 1975, pp. 87-8, 1995, pp. 41-3). Because
of life-sustenance as a value of universal significance, life-sustaining indices are also
used as a measurement of development.
Esteem. All human beings in all societies feel the necessity for respect, dignity,
honor and recognition. For Goulet (1975, pp. 89-90) the discussion involves esteem
values and material prosperity, and, particularly, how esteem contends with the
conventional notion of development (in a sense of high rate of economic and
technological advance). Accordingly, the more the material prosperity becomes the
centre task of the development of a society the greater is the subordination of esteem to
material affluence. The reaction of a society to the aforementioned material approach to
development and its need for esteem can lead these societies to opposite directions,
either towards development or towards resistance of it. In the first case, society tries
to gain esteem via development, while at the latter it try to protect its profound
esteem from inward development. Both acts seek to gain esteem. Therefore, esteem is
a universal goal whether development is accepted or not.
Freedom. It is valued both from Westernized and traditional types of societies as
one of the components of the good life (Goulet, 1995, p. 44). Development ought to free
humans from all servitudes. In Goulets (1995, p. 45) words, development is perceived
as one way to emancipate oneself from the structural servitudes of ignorance, misery,
perhaps even of exploitations by others. Even though, there is a vast philosophical
discussion on the term and the claim that freedom is enhanced by development is not
self-evident, Goulets notion of freedom is widely accepted as something beneficial and
desirable. His debate lies again between freedom and material affluence. Usually, in the
Westernized societies, it can be accepted that the degree of freedom rises by material
expansion which increases material welfare. On the other hand, in some traditional
societies, the value system may adopt a completely different confrontation over needs
and wants. For instance freedom could be derived from the minimization of peoples
desires. Usually, these societies avoid development in terms of material expansion. In
any case, the point is that freedom is valued both by those who pursue development
and by those who reject it (Goulet, 1995, p. 47). Furthermore, in the discussion over
freedom, a significant distinction should be made between freedom from wants and
freedom for wants. The former refers to the situation where human needs are
adequately met, while the latter to the case where the gestations of new wants are
controlled and individuals possess multiplied wants (Goulet, 1995, p. 50).
IJDI Ethical strategies. In development ethics, ethical strategies are normative judgments
which provide both the notional and practical framework under within which
10,3 development goals should be discussed and policy recommendations over those goals
ought to be formulated. Accordingly, three ethical strategies are targeted (Goulet, 1975,
(1) Abundance of goods. The abundance of goods is a sense that people need to have
226 enough in order to be more (Goulet, 1975, p. 123). In order to understand the notion of
this strategy, it becomes necessary to take into account the ontological nature of
human beings. In an ontological sense, almost all organisms must go outside of them in
order to be perfect. Only fully perfect beings would have no needs at all. Totally
imperfect beings on the other hand would be incapable of needing certain goods.
Humans are perfect or imperfect to such a degree that:
[. . .] men [sic ] have needs because their existence is rich enough to be capable of development,
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but poor to realize all potentialities at one time or with their resources [. . .] At any given time
man [sic ] is less than he can become and what he can become depends largely on what he can
have (Goulet, 1975, pp. 129-30).
Hence, people need to have enough goods and amenities in order to be human. This
must be investigated under the notion of a humanistic approach on how much is
enough for people in order to have a good life. There is not an absolute answer to
the above issue. The response to the aforementioned inquiry is found in the historical
relation among peoples and societies. Nevertheless, it is widely accepted that
underdevelopment (poverty, misery, diseases, mass famine, etc.) diminishes humanity.
Thereby, enough should be, at the minimum, all these goods and amenities that lead
to cover biological needs, and additionally to free part of human energy in order for it
to be allocated to a wider range of life aspects beyond covering first-order needs.
Altogether with the concept of enough goods there is that of superfluous wealth. At
the same time, whereas underdevelopment hits two-thirds of the globe, rich classes and
nations consume with a superfluous way by exploiting nature recourses. This can be
characterized inhuman in twofold: first, the maintenance of superfluous wealth along
with underdevelopment conditions is unjust. The discussion maintains the aspect of a
better redistribution of wealth among societies and within societies. Second, even in
cases of the hyper-consumption manner of life in developed societies, it has distorted
the way that the good life is perceived: having more (material goods, wealth) leads
to the notion of being more (successful, attractive, valuable) (Fromm, 1999, 2005).
Therefore, with regard to the ethical strategy of the abundance of goods, three
distinctive points are noteworthy: first, all individuals need to have enough goods in
order to realize themselves as human beings. Second, enough is not an absolutely
relative measure but it can be defined in an objective basis. Third, both
underdevelopment situations and superfluous wealth lead to dehumanization of life.
As an extension, Goulets analysis on the abundance of goods can be perceived as
an originator to new developments in happiness studies that suggest that
overabundance does not even increase happiness, beyond a certain level (Dutt and
Radcliff (2009) in general and Chapter 6 by Dutt in specific). Even more recent, Dutt
and Wilber (2010b, p. 11) make a comment that in subjective well-being research has
been proven that beyond a certain level of income and consumption, further increase
do not add significantly, or not at all, to a persons happiness. Authors directly
connect this approach to the development ethics strategy of the abundance of goods.
(2) Universal solidarity. It concerns an ontological and philosophical issue. For Development
Goulet (1975, pp. 138-43), it can be distinctive in three points. First, all people be in ethics
agreement that beyond differences (in nationality, race, culture, status, etc.) a common
human-ness is present. Second, the earth as a cosmic body is governed by identical
laws (physical roles) and all people dwell on this planet. Humans share a common
occupation of the planet. In spite of differences in geography or climate, all humans are
linked directly or indirectly with other people due to the fact of cohabitation into this 227
cosmic body. The third component of the universal solidarity is derived by the all
humans unity to destiny. In contrast, the existing state of affairs over the notion of an
economic globalization is in the opposite direction. Humans have not yet realized the
need of solidarity. Controversial perspectives of development focus on narrow
mercantile, strategic and ideological interests. Under the present worldwide conditions,
solidarity can be achieved only through conflict against present rules and redefinition
of the relations of power. Conflict is a prerequisite for solidarity. Here it is appropriate
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to state the importance of classes struggle and the institutional building role to the
problem of development. Goulet asserts that no universal solidarity exists to
consolidate unfair social relations. Thus, the rebuilding of social relations and
institutions in a basis of equality is more than necessary.
(3) Participation. Theories of participation possess an important issue in the study of
development. In general, the elite theory (Burnham, 1960; Putnam, 1977; Bottomore, 1993)
claims that decision making into a society concerns a job for specialists in each particular
field of life. Elite theory is made in a basis of competence that leads to an alleged
efficiency within a society. Elite problem solvers (political elite, government officials,
policy makers, specialists, executives of intergovernmental organization and so on)
usually view development as a matter for competence. In contradiction to the conventional
approach to issues of decision making, development ethics approach to international
development offers a pluralistic alternative. In Goulet (1995, p. 97) words, [p]articipation
is best conceptualized as a kind of moral incentive enabling hitherto excluded non-elites to
negotiate new packages of material incentives benefiting them. Even, Goulet (1989)
espouses that different kinds of development require different forms of participation;
he argues that non-elite participation in decision-making enables people to mobilize and
gives them control over their social destiny. Non-elite participation is perceived in the
sense that common people are involved not only as receivers of the privileges of
development but also as agents of their destiny, building their model of development.
To what extent populace participation should takes place is a matter for discussion.
What is certain is that via participation at least three vital actions are performed:
(1) Participation offers to non-elites the ability to state goals independently of their
social position.
(2) Participation abolishes political patron, in a sense that ordinary people
themselves become problem solvers in their social environment.
(3) Participation launches individual and social formations to escape of the
rationale of do-it-yourself problems of micro level gaining access the macro
arena of decision making (Goulet, 1995, pp. 91-101).

As participation is one of the focal points of development, recent development ethicists

incorporate Goulets ideas along with newest approaches. Among them are two
prominent ethicists, David Crocker and Jay Drydyk. Crocker (2010) and Drydyk (2010)
IJDI supplement Goulets account of participation with Sens ideas of participation and
10,3 endowment in development as well as the concept of deliberative democracy. It is out
of the scope of this study to focus on these theories however this indicates the
significance of Goulets contribution to participation as one on the major topic in the
development ethics discourse.
In sum, Goulet puts forth the concept of development and distinguishes it from the
228 conventional notion of development or otherwise to the way that for many years the
developed nations deal with the problem of underdevelopment. Goulet endow the term
development with all those traits that development should entail in order to be human.
For Goulet development refers to the means and ends of human action, or in other
words, to the vision of a better life and the way that this life can be accessed. In his words,
Development is simultaneously the vision of a better life a life materially richer,
institutionally more modern, and technologically more efficient and an array of
means to achieve that vision (Goulet, 2006, p. 183). As it is previously mentioned,
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development ought to respond to long-standing philosophical inquiries concerning the

meaning of the good life, the foundation of justice in society and within societies, and the
stance of human individual and societies towards nature. Providing satisfactory
conceptual and institutional answers to these three questions is what constitutes
authentic development (Goulet, 1996, p. 197). Any concept of human fulfillment is
highly relative and as Goulet (1975, pp. 96-108) points out, development can be examined
as a dialectical process. Development goals are usually interactive and no range exists
among life sustenance, esteem and freedom. The essential point is that development
should not judge the abovementioned goals (as is conventionally the case) but these
goals must become the criteria which development itself must be judged (Goulet, 1995,
p. 48). In this mode, grading a nation high economic growth does not mean that it has
followed a development pattern. Development cannot be achieved if massive
consumption leads societies to an entirely material way of living emphasizing the
notion of have instead of be; if structural relations between nations and within them
(among classes and individuals) are competitive and there is not equal distribution of
development proceeds; if the exploitation of material resources leads to the destruction
of ecological balance, if technological advantages are used to abolish freedom.
Denis Goulets life contribution is identified with the unfolding, enrichment, and
enhancement of a development ethics. There is no doubt that there are alternative
dimensions that someone can investigate ethical consideration in the study of
development. Critique on Goulets work is as polymorphous as the nature of the study
of ethics in development. For instance, according to Gill (1973), Goulet introduces
concepts as goals or strategies of development accession in an arbitrary way or fails
address adequately the quantitative side of development. The importance is that
Goulet sets a path by bringing the study of ethics and the value reflection in the
concept of international development.

5. Conclusion
The paper provides the fundamental principles of development ethics via the literature
contribution of the father of development ethics, Denis Goulet. The objective of
development ethics is international development or differently a good life for people
and a good global society for nations. Mainstream economics, through economic
growth theory, quantities the development problem. However, it does not seem to solve it.
The reality that exists in the world today appears to be discouraging. The developed Development
world under a colonial rationale continues to abuse developing nations. Problems of ethics
famine, water, sanitarian condition still exist in many African, Asian, and Latin
Americans countries. Wars and conflicts for resource control and sovereignty continue
to undermine world peace. Forced migration is under elation. Within developed states
there is a consumer society on the one hand and people under the poverty line on the
other. Ecological destruction has become the first-order threat of the planet. To the 229
aforementioned pessimist calculus, ethics of development proposes an ethical view of
development by responding to the ethical question what is development. This
alternative ethical approach introduces the reader to the fundamental principles of the
development ethics to international development. My concern is that international
development scholars and policy makers, in whatever tradition they accept (heterodox or
orthodox) can be benefited by the development ethics approach.
As mentioned previously, development ethics are related to an ethical reflection on
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the ends and means of any developmental endeavor. Ethics incorporates with the
value dynamisms of the instruments utilized by development agents thus becoming a
means of the means (Goulet, 1995, p. 25). Any instrumental action (an economic
policy for instance) should be tested under an ethical deliberation taking into account
the aforesaid ethical considerations of life-sustenance, esteem, and freedom. For all
people and any society in the world, development ought to cover at least three objective
aims that correspond to the aforementioned goals of development:
(1) to pursue more and better life-sustaining goods for all human beings;
(2) to create and improve the conditions that nurture the sense of esteem of
individuals and societies; and
(3) to release humans from all forms of servitude (to nature, to others people, to
institutions, to beliefs) (Goulet, 1995, pp. 47-8).

Development ethics renders to people and societies the way to be critically aware of the
moral content of their choices. By the formulation of ethical strategies abundance of
goods, universal solidarity and participation development ethicists show an
alternative road based on the principles of an ethical international development.
Through this process development ethics offers the ideal of hope; preserving hope as
the possibility of creating new possibilities (Goulet, 1995, p. 28). Development ethics
essential task is human ascent to all relevant aspects of life and international
development should be perceived as the mean and the end in this course of action.

1. The term engineering refers to Amartya Sens division of the origins on the study of
Economics (Sen, 1987).
2. Denis Goulet (1931-2006) was Emeritus Professor at the University of Notre Dame. A pioneer in
the interdisciplinary study of development ethics, he had conducted field research in Algeria,
Lebanon, Brazil, Guinea-Bissau, Sri Lanka, and Mexico. He has held visiting professorships in
Canada (University of Saskatchewan), USA (Indiana University and University of California),
France (IRFED), Brazil (University of Pernambuco), and Poland (Warsaw University). His
publications record includes 11 books and over 160 articles and monographs (CV elements
retrieved in 2007 from Denis Goulets web site:,dgoulet/). For further details
about the life and work of Denis Goulet see Dutt and Wilber (2010b, pp. 2-4).
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1. Jnna Einarsdttir, Geir Gunnlaugsson. 2016. Applied ethics and allocation of foreign aid: disparity in
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