Beyond Gdp: Conceptual Grounds of Quantification. The Case of the Index of Economic Well-Being (IEWB)
Today, though the need for new indicators of progress is broadly recognized, no consensus has arisen on a successor to GDP. Various – often conflicting – quantification options are observed. On one side, one finds those who want to improve current indicators, by completing or adjusting them, within the logic from which they have emerged. On the other are those for whom new indicators of progress are liable, if well-designed, to catalyze a transition toward a new model of society, less reliant on growth. Up to now, these axiological issues related to quantification choices, though crucial for "what we measure affects what we do", are scattered among the debates and do not appear clearly to the stakeholders to the debates. Our paper aims therefore to offer a more systematic understanding of the normative impacts of generic quantification choices. To that end, we analyse the Index of Economic Well-Being (IEWB). Though this index is an example of creativeness at a given time, its lack of success in the public sphere leads us to further investigate the coherence between its foundations and its purpose(s). For each dimension of this composite indicator, the analysis – which is intended to be easily transposed to other indicators – sheds light on the variety of normative implications resulting from its conceptual and methodological apparatus. This concomitantly leads us to question in depth the relevance of some theoretical hypotheses underlying the IEWB to coherently account for economic, social and ecological issues. The paper's conclusion suggests that alternative conceptual frameworks, such as ecological economics and the capability approach, are liable to carry more coherent indicators of progress.²²
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