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Towards a systemic development approach: Building on the Human-Scale Development paradigm


  • Cruz, Ivonne
  • Stahel, Andri
  • Max-Neef, Manfred


Since its inception, the scope of inquiry within modern economics has been overall reduced to the chrematistic, market-centred dimension of the economic process. This has been reflected in the very way it shaped the modern idea of development which, more and more, has been represented in monetary terms to the point of being equated to chrematistic growth altogether. This reductionism has been severely criticized for various reasons, mostly related to the ignorance of the complex, multidimensional, social, cultural and psychological motives and aspirations of human beings, ignoring as well crucial environmental and ecological dimensions within and by means of which the economic process unfolds. One fundamental early contribution to the re-conceptualization of the economic development process in terms of well-being from a systemic perspective came about with the Human-Scale development approach (H-SD) in the 1980s. Central to this paradigm is a systemic re-conceptualization of human needs and an attempt to place this discussion at the centre of the development debate. It suggested a recovery of the oikonomy in its original classical meaning, as a means for achieving better well-being beyond the chrematistics narrow scope. This theory presents a very wide outlook for its theoretical and practical applications and in this paper we will try to build on H-SD's original contribution. We begin this by briefly outlining what can be termed the chrematistic turn within both modern economics' theory and practice at the dawn of modern capitalism. In the second section the main aspects of the H-SD approach are briefly presented and discussed. The last sections are devoted to propose some methodological extensions to the original H-SD version suggesting innovative ways of enlarging its scope through the development and improvement of its evaluation tools. Thereby we hope to enhance its application within its traditional context as well as indicating means for applying it to other fields as development policies, strategies or eventually, appraisal of new technologies.

Suggested Citation

  • Cruz, Ivonne & Stahel, Andri & Max-Neef, Manfred, 2009. "Towards a systemic development approach: Building on the Human-Scale Development paradigm," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(7), pages 2021-2030, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:68:y:2009:i:7:p:2021-2030

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Streeten, Paul & ,, 1982. "First Things First: Meeting Basic Human Needs in Developing Countries," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195203691.
    2. Alkire, Sabina, 2002. "Dimensions of Human Development," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 181-205, February.
    3. Chambers, Robert, 1994. "The origins and practice of participatory rural appraisal," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 22(7), pages 953-969, July.
    4. Ingrid Robeyns, 2005. "The Capability Approach: a theoretical survey," Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 6(1), pages 93-117.
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    Cited by:

    1. Guillen-Royo, Monica, 2010. "Realising the 'wellbeing dividend': An exploratory study using the Human Scale Development approach," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(2), pages 384-393, December.
    2. Dawson, Neil & Martin, Adrian, 2015. "Assessing the contribution of ecosystem services to human wellbeing: A disaggregated study in western Rwanda," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 62-72.
    3. repec:eee:ecoser:v:21:y:2016:i:pb:p:270-290 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Masferrer-Dodas, Elena & Rico-Garcia, Luis & Huanca, Tomás & Reyes-García, Victoria, 2012. "Consumption of market goods and wellbeing in small-scale societies: An empirical test among the Tsimane' in the Bolivian Amazon," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(C), pages 213-220.
    5. repec:eee:appene:v:211:y:2018:i:c:p:792-808 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. repec:eee:ecoser:v:21:y:2016:i:pb:p:258-269 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. repec:eee:ecolec:v:147:y:2018:i:c:p:21-28 is not listed on IDEAS


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