What is a human economy? One suggestion that appeals to me is an economy that offers every child the opportunity to live what he or she comes to consider a good life, a life that combines simple pleasures and meaningful fulfillment of some larger purpose. Of course, however, not everyone sees the good life in similar terms, and what I take to be simple pleasures and meaningful fulfillment may be quite different from what someone else prefers. Anthropologically speaking, the possibility that different cultures may embody different visions of the good life is a topic to be explored, not a question to be decided a priori.
I have read other books on this subject. Charles Taylor's Sources of the Self is a classic survey of possibilities that evolved over time within what is labeled the Western tradition: from heroic selves in the Iliad to bourgeoise and artistic selves in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Gordon Matthews' What Makes Life Worth Living, a comparative study of Japanese and American aspirations also comes to mind.
Just today, however, I stumbled on a manuscript online, Edward F. Fischer's German Eggs, Guatemalan Coffee, and the Good Life: An Anthropological Look at Markets, Values, and Wellbeing that looks like a worthy addition to this list and has the advantage of for anyone new to the topic of including in its first chapter (all I have scanned so far) a good overview of recent research in happiness studies (did you know there's a field called "happiness studies"?), not to mention the philosophy of John Rawls and the capabilities approach to development articulated by Amartya Sen. It also has the advantage of being a downloadable PDF that you can read for free.
OK, I really like the title, and my quick scan of the first chapter reveals a style I find enjoyable to read. Anyone care to join me in reading it? Seems terribly relevant to many things discussed on OAC.