We argue that sociological analyses of inequality could benefit from engaging the literatures on decision-making. In turn, a sociological focus on how contexts and structural constraints influence the outcomes of decisions and the strategies social groups can use in pursuit of their goals could inform our understanding of decision-making. We consider a simple two-class model of income and the need of capitalists and workers to mobilize resources to influence the adaptive landscape that shapes responses to decisions. We then examine the implications of the rational actor model and the heuristics and biases literature for class-based decision-making. We consider the importance of altruism in mobilizing collective action, and we offer some evidence that altruism is most common in the middle ranges of income and that altruism is a major influence on support for redistributive policies. These results, while tentative, suggest the value of having scholars of development and inequality engage with the literatures on decision-making.
There is a growing dissatisfaction with using standard measures of affluence, such as gross domestic product, as the sole conceptualization of human well-being. Experiments are underway with alternative metrics of well-being as ways of informing both research and policy. It is thus important to develop a theory of the production of human well-being to parallel theories of economic development and growth. The traditions of work in growth theory, sustainability theory, and household production functions provide the basis for an emerging structural human ecology of human well-being. Structural human ecology emphasizes the use of manufactured, natural, and human resources in producing well-being but is also attentive to the ways social structure shapes the production of well-being. While this approach is promising, several conceptual issues need to be addressed for it to realize its potential. In particular, we need greater clarity regarding measures of well-being and the ethical theory that underpins them and clearer thinking about the relationship between resources and capital.