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If socio-economics were to be enriched with a liberal kind of communitarian perspective, such combination would necessitate compatible partners. This article suggests a way of fitting socio-economics for such a union. (c) 2000 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved.
As a social economist, highly critical of both neoclassical economics and also the currently available alternative approaches marching to the tune of a communitarian neopragmatism, feminism and postmodernism, I had offhand little sympathy for getting involved in any effort to unite socio-economics with the political philosophy of communitarianism. As it turns out, however, my opposition to communitarian thinking had hinged on what I understood "communitarianism" to mean. In order to clarify the point, I will begin by briefly paraphrasing what seems to be a consensus description of the nature of socio-economics. A discussion on the interpretation of communitarianism follows, and finally, I will offer some suggestions for narrowing socio-economics so as to make it compatible with the "right kind" of communitarianism.
2. On the nature of socio-economics
The initial outline of the socio-economics school of thought contained in the appendix of Amitai Etzioni's The Moral Dimension (1988) clearly set the tone for the nineties. At the same time, the paradigm has also been evolving, guided in part by a number of seminal papers, in particular those of Paul Stem (1993) and Richard Coughlin (1996). For an up-to-date summary we may paraphrase the summary sketch offered to conference participants.  Socio-economic thought (SET) consists essentially of four characteristic assumptions:
a) premise: economics is an open system embedded in society, polity, culture and nature.
b) premise: SET is interdisciplinary: including anthropology, philosophy, law, history, psychology, natural science and "other disciplines."
c) premise: competitive behavior is only a subset of human behavior, SET also includes cooperation.
d) premise: no automatic assumption of self-interest and optimal resource allocation, SET allows for the possibility of operational social norms.
and four defining propositions:
e) SET goes beyond instrumental rationality to include emotions and a sense of morality.
f) SET is both positive and normative, inductive and deductive, and sees questions of value inextricably connected with individual and collective choices.
g) SET is not committed to any one paradigm or ideology, but treats behavior as involving the whole person and society within a continually evolving context.
h) SET engages in critical appraisal of the modem neoclassical economics paradigm.
I believe that these elements are widely accepted. Perhaps it could be argued that by mainly focusing on what are essentially positive aspects, the summary appears to understate whatever normative thrust socio-economics can offer. Examples of a policy orientation pertain to environment, defense conversion, employee stock ownership, transition of formerly communist nations, and more broadly, a moral …