Subjectivism on Values - Dictionary of Arguments
Gaus I 109
Values/subjectivism/Gaus: (...) subjectivist theories of value - which equate values with tastes or preferences - have a prominent place in twentieth-century liberal theory. A subjective conception of value was integral to the Austrian school; Carl Menger (1994(1): ch. 3) and his followers such as Ludwig von Mises (1966)(2) explicitly endeavoured to integrate a subjectivist theory of value into economics. Of course in so far as economic liberalism is based on the supposition that the satisfaction of preferences alone determines value, then it too is subjectivist (for a criticism see Sunstein, 1997(3): 15ff). >Cognitivism/Noncognitivism, >Emotivism.
Subjectivist accounts of value have been defended by philosophers as well as economists (...) (see Gaus 1990(4): Part I).
The upshot of these subjective accounts is that, by relativizing value to the desires, feelings or preferences of the individual agent, they undermine the proposal that the state should devote itself to pursuing the summum bonum. Liberal politics, on this view, cannot be reasonably grounded on pursuit of what is truly valuable, for value is a matter of taste, and our tastes differ.
>Justice/Liberalism, ((s) Cf. >Preference utilitarianism).
1. Menger, Carl (1994) Principles of Economics, trans. James Dingwall and Bert F. Hoselitz. Grove City, PA: Libertarian.
2. Mises, Ludwig von (1966) Human Action: A Treatise on Economics, 3rd edn. Chicago: Contemporary.
3. Sunstein, Cass R. (1997) Free Markets and Social Justice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
4. Gaus, Gerald F. (1999) Social Philosophy. Armonk, NY: Sharpe.
Gaus, Gerald F. 2004. „The Diversity of Comprehensive Liberalisms.“ In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications._____________Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments The note [Concept/Author], [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] resp. "problem:"/"solution:", "old:"/"new:" and "thesis:" is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Gerald F. Gaus
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004