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Efficiency and utility: an evolutionary perspective

  • Stefan Mann
  • Henry Wüstemann

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to develop the argument that the link between efficiency and utility was strongest in the twentieth century. This would not only explain the growing focus on efficiency in the past, but also suggest that the importance of efficiency in society is set to decrease from now on. Design/methodology/approach – The two arguments in support of the claim were: first, the growing importance of the service sector where an exaggerated focus on efficiency may decrease utility and second, the utility that is generated by different working environments and identities where heterogeneity is increasing. Findings – Good reasons are found why the strong correlation between utility and efficiency that could be found in the process of industrialization is loosening. Research limitations/implications – The findings imply that the role of economic science is probably rather decreasing. Social implications – Social indicators for utility will probably gain importance. Originality/value – This paper puts the importance of efficiency into a historical context.

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Article provided by Emerald Group Publishing in its journal International Journal of Social Economics.

Volume (Year): 37 (2010)
Issue (Month): 9 (September)
Pages: 676-685

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Handle: RePEc:eme:ijsepp:v:37:y:2010:i:9:p:676-685
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References listed on IDEAS
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  1. Gardner, Lisa A. & Grace, Martin F., 1993. "X-Efficiency in the US life insurance industry," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 17(2-3), pages 497-510, April.
  2. Studer, Roman, 2008. "India and the Great Divergence: Assessing the Efficiency of Grain Markets in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century India," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 68(02), pages 393-437, June.
  3. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521375900 is not listed on IDEAS
  4. Douglass C. North, 1994. "The Evolution Of Efficient Markets In History," Economic History 9411005, EconWPA.
  5. Stefan Mann, 2008. "From friendly turns towards trade – on the interplay between cooperation and markets," International Journal of Social Economics, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 35(5), pages 326-337, May.
  6. Richardson, Gary, 2005. "The Prudent Village: Risk Pooling Institutions in Medieval English Agriculture," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 65(02), pages 386-413, June.
  7. Levin, Henry M., 1997. "Raising school productivity: An x-efficiency approach," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 16(3), pages 303-311, June.
  8. Nigel Key & Michael J. Roberts, 2009. "Nonpecuniary Benefits to Farming: Implications for Supply Response to Decoupled Payments," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 91(1), pages 1-18.
  9. Mokyr, Joel, 1992. "Technological Inertia in Economic History," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 52(02), pages 325-338, June.
  10. Jollands, Nigel, 2006. "Concepts of efficiency in ecological economics: Sisyphus and the decision maker," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(3), pages 359-372, March.
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