IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Needs, Incommensurability and Well-being


  • Mozaffar Qizilbash


Some have argued for the priority of needs in moral and development theory, on the grounds that people have conflicting and incommensurable values and conceptions of the good. In this paper, I concentrate on one version of this view, that due to John Rawls. Rawls' view is that a person's advantage should be evaluated in terms of certain primary goods which are citizens' needs. I outline a variation on James Griffin's account of well-being, which involves certain values that make any human life better—prudential values. I argue that such values are commensurable, and that the account is consistent with pluralism. The discussion supports and helps us to understand various criticisms of Rawls. It also suggests that one argument for the priority of needs in development theory is invalid.

Suggested Citation

  • Mozaffar Qizilbash, 1997. "Needs, Incommensurability and Well-being," Review of Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 9(3), pages 261-276.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:revpoe:v:9:y:1997:i:3:p:261-276 DOI: 10.1080/751245295

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Henkin, Gennadi M. & Polterovich, Victor M., 1991. "Schumpeterian dynamics as a non-linear wave theory," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(6), pages 551-590.
    2. Berkowitz, Daniel, 1992. "Sequence of Techniques," Economic Change and Restructuring, Springer, vol. 25(3), pages 191-217.
    3. Sterman, John D., 1985. "A behavioral model of the economic long wave," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 6(1), pages 17-53, March.
    4. Rosser, J. Jr., 1992. "The dialogue between the economic and the ecologic theories of evolution," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 17(2), pages 195-215, March.
    5. Simonovits, A, 1991. "Investment Limit Cycles in a Socialist Economy," Economic Change and Restructuring, Springer, vol. 24(1), pages 27-46.
    6. Goodwin, Richard M., 1986. "The economy as an evolutionary pulsator," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 7(4), pages 341-349, December.
    7. Barkley Rosser, J. Jr., 1983. "Reswitching as a cusp catastrophe," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 182-193, October.
    8. Bajt, Alexander, 1971. "Investment Cycles in European Socialist Economies: A Review Article," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 9(1), pages 53-63, March.
    9. Granick,David, 1987. "Job Rights in the Soviet Union," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521332958, March.
    10. Bleaney, Michael, 1991. "Investment Cycles in Socialist Economies: A Reconsideration," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 43(3), pages 515-527, July.
    11. Gur Ofer, 1990. "Macroeconomic Issues of Soviet Reforms," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1990, Volume 5, pages 297-342 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Simonovits, Andras, 1991. "Investments, starts, and cycles in socialist economies: A mathematical model," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(3), pages 460-475, September.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Alkire, Sabina, 2002. "Dimensions of Human Development," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 181-205, February.
    2. Qizilbash, Mozaffar, 1997. "Pluralism and well-being indices," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 25(12), pages 2009-2026, December.
    3. Mozaffar Qizilbash, 2002. "Development, Common Foes and Shared Values," Review of Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 14(4), pages 463-480.
    4. Ying Liang & Peigang Wang, 2014. "Influence of Prudential Value on the Subjective Well-Being of Chinese Urban–Rural Residents," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 118(3), pages 1249-1267, September.

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:taf:revpoe:v:9:y:1997:i:3:p:261-276. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Chris Longhurst). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.