Social multi-criteria evaluation: Methodological foundations and operational consequences

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In order to address contemporary issues economics and decision sciences need to expand their empirical relevance by introducing more and more realistic (thus more complex) assumptions in their models. One of the most interesting research directions in the field of public economics is the attempt to introduce political constraints, interest groups and collusion effects explicitly (J.J. Laffont, Incentives and Political Economy, 2000). The main argument developed here is the proposal of the concept of social multi-criteria evaluation (SMCE) as a possible useful framework for the application of social choice to the difficult policy problems of our millennium, where, as stated by Funtowicz and Ravetz, "facts are uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent". This paper starts from the following main questions: 1. Why "social" multi-criteria evaluation? 2. How should such an approach be developed? The foundations of SMCE are set up by referring to concepts from complex system theory and philosophy, such as reflexive complexity, post-normal science and incommensurability. To give some operational guidelines on the application of SMCE basic questions to be answered are 1. How is it possible to deal with technical incommensurability? 2. How can we deal with the issue of social incommensurability? To answer these questions, using theoretical considerations and lessons learned from real-world case studies, is the main objective of the present article. © 2003 Published by Elsevier B.V.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)662-677
JournalEuropean Journal of Operational Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2004


  • Complexity theory
  • Economics
  • Environment
  • Ethics
  • Incommensurability
  • Multi-criteria analysis
  • Post-normal science
  • Social choice


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