By Arjo Klamer
This book is for all those who are seeking a human perspective on economic and organizational processes. It lays the foundations for a value based approach to the economy. The key questions are:
- What is important to you or your organization?
- What is this action or that organization good for?
The book is directed at the prevalence of instrumentalist thinking in the current economy and responds to the calls for another economy. Another economy demands another economics. The value based approach is another economics; it focuses on values and on the most important goods such as families, homes, communities, knowledge, and art. It places economic processes in their cultural context.
What does it take to do the right thing, as a person, as an organization, as a society? What is the good to strive for? This book gives directions for the answers. The value based approach restores the ancient idea that quality of life and of society is what the economy is all about. It advocates shifting the focus from quantities (“how much?”) to qualities (“what is important?”).
How the Book Can Be Applied to the Cultural Sector
- Official website of the book
- Klamer about the book on the Hayek Program Podcast by the Mercatus Center (7 august 2018)
About Arjo Klamer
Arjo Klamer is professor of the Economics of Art and Culture at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Prior to that and after acquiring his PhD at Duke University, he taught for many years at several universities in the US, including Wellesley College and George Washington University.
Klamer has been governor (a sort of alderman) of the Dutch town of Hilversum for the Socialist Party. He conducts workshops on the value based approach all over the world. He is past President of the Association of cultural economists.
Table of Contents of Doing the Right Thing
Part 1: Framing and Raising Awareness
- Doing the right thing starts at home; in the end it is the culture that matters - This chapter starts us off with the contrast between house and home, form and content, economics and culture, to conclude that in the end culture is all that matters. It illustrates the kind of conversation we are pursuing with this text.
- Different ways of making sense of culture in relationship to the economy - In this chapter we distance ourselves and consider how culture has figured into scholarly conservations. When culture matters, as the previous chapter concluded, we need a way to discuss culture in a meaningful way. The question then is how to get culture in the conversation. This chapter reveals first why I like the term conversation and then shows 6 different types of ongoing conversations that link the economy, or economics, with culture. It concludes with the conversation that considers culture as an all-encompassing phenomenon, under which economic phenomena are subsumed.
- Doing the right thing is a matter of realizing values - This chapter introduces key concepts and issues for the study of what it is to do the right thing. It tells how the phrase “realizing values” gives a twist to the subject of economics, as it is usually understood. It points out the need to figure out what goods people and organizations strive for, the virtues that discipline their actions, and how their actions can be valuable to others, as we all depend on others when we realize our values.
- Phronesis is the virtue in making values real - Dealing with values is not a rational thing. It does not allow for calculations and the application of formulas. It is rather a matter of practical wisdom, or phronesis as the Greeks called it. Learn about phronesis and discover that doing the right thing is a matter of getting your ideals clear, working on your worldview, making clever designs, acting, and then reflecting to find out that your actions were not quite what you intended them to be.
Part 2: The conceptual framework
- About values - The chapter develops a key element of the value based approach to economy and culture: the concept of value or, better said, values. It explores the various types of values that guide us in doing the right thing under the presumption that our actions aim at the realization of values. The discussion is intended to make clear that when we speak about realizing values, then any exchange value or price plays a subordinate role.
- To realize values we need to procure goods, the most important of which are shared - We make values real by generating and acquiring goods. The most important goods are social and cultural goods. They turn out to be shared goods and that distinguishes them from the private goods that we buy at markets and collective goods that governments procure. (Creative) commons are shared, too. The willingness to contribute is critical. Altruistic and social behavior is normal, contrary to what is commonly understood.
- The goods to strive for are our ideals - In this chapter we turn to the ends, or goals of human actions. It is about our ideals. It is about our telos. The question to ask of any action of yourself, others, organizations or societies is “What is the action good for?” And when the answer does not satisfy just repeat the question “What is that good for.” In the end the answer is to be found in one of four dimensions.
Distinguishing those four dimensions is intended to be a substantive contribution to the inquiry into what it takes to do the right thing.
- The sources for doing the right thing. What we own and possess. About richness and poverty - What do we own, what do we possess? Because of what we own and possess we are capable, or able, to realize important values for us. What are those possessions? And how do we acquire them? For the most part, so we will realize in this chapter, we acquire our sources by contributing somehow. Some of them are a gift. And some sources we have paid for directly. Having a more complete picture of our riches, we also gain a more diversified view of inequalities. At the end of the chapter you will get four different characterizations of inequality.
- Realizing values in five different spheres: involving others - Every day we are busy realizing values, that is being or becoming aware of them and making them real, or valorizing them. In order to do so we need to involve others somehow. We can do so in various ways. Basically five distinctive spheres are available for us to valorize all that is important to us and involve others: the oikos, the social sphere, the cultural sphere, the market and the sphere of governance. Each turns out to have a different practice. Each sphere involves the others differently. Each sphere is good for a characteristic type of relationship with the other. The model of the five spheres makes for a good picture that can inform our world view.
- An exploration of the five spheres for their logics, rhetoric, values and relationships. The oikos, the social and the cultural spheres first - The five sphere model differentiates five different logics, five different forms of rhetoric for involving others and thus to valorize values. Understanding the different logics may help to explain why some strategies of valorization are more effective than others, and help to figure out what the right strategy may be for the purpose at hand. Get the full picture! This chapter aims to provide a survey and is meant more for study, for further research than for easy reading. Those who only want to get the gist of the argument better stick to chapter 9. To provide the reader a pause in reading this chapter comes in two parts. This first part highlights the elements that constitutes a sphere of valorization and shows how they are expressed in the sphere of the oikos, and the social and cultural sphere. The market and governance sphere follow in the next chapter.
- The market and government spheres followed by spillovers and overlaps among the five spheres - We continue the exploration of the five spheres. Surprising as it may seem, the sphere of governance dominates the market sphere. It involves us more and we need it more to realize our values than the sphere of the market. Having distinguished the basics of each of the five spheres, we can now see the spill-overs among the spheres, the misleading application of a logic one sphere to another sphere, and several do’s and don’ts. The world of the arts provides an illustration.
- So what? - I have to draw a preliminary conclusion. Preliminary because a further elaboration on a variety of topics is in the planning. Here we need to figure out where the value based approach has taken us. What are its consequences, how does it differ from what I have been calling the standard account? How it could matter for the life of people, for organizations, and for politics. I include a description of the quality impact monitor that I have developed with others to enable the governing on the basis of qualities. After all, a good evaluation is one of the characteristics of doing the right thing.