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The Ethology of Homo Economicus

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  • Joseph Persky

Abstract

Early critics of John Stuart Mill attacked him for creating a monomaniacal economic man concerned only with the accumulation of money. In fact, Mill's construct possessed a considerably richer psychology including desires for leisure, luxury, and sexual relations. This psychology played a central role in Mill's analysis of alternative institutional regimes. Mill also considered the social origins, or 'ethology,' of preference structures. Mill's framework provides a useful reference point for ongoing work in comparative economics and feminist economics. In particular, Mill's emphasis on psychological parsimony needs careful reconsideration by advocates of enriching the motives of economic man.

Suggested Citation

  • Joseph Persky, 1995. "The Ethology of Homo Economicus," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(2), pages 221-231, Spring.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:9:y:1995:i:2:p:221-31
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.9.2.221
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    File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.9.2.221
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    Cited by:

    1. François Etner, 2004. "La fin du XIXe siècle, vue par les historiens de la pensée économique," Revue d'économie politique, Dalloz, vol. 114(5), pages 663-680.
    2. Dohmen, Thomas, 2014. "Behavioral labor economics: Advances and future directions," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(C), pages 71-85.
    3. Julie A. Nelson, 2012. "Poisoning the Well, or How Economic Theory Damages Moral Imagination," GDAE Working Papers 12-07, GDAE, Tufts University.
    4. Pavel Chalupníček, 2014. "From an Individual to a Person: What Economics Can Learn from Theology About Human Beings," Econ Journal Watch, Econ Journal Watch, vol. 11(2), pages 120-126, May.
    5. Roth, Timothy P., 1997. "Competence-difficulty gaps, ethics and the new social welfare theory," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 26(5), pages 533-552.
    6. Basel, Jörn S. & Brühl, Rolf, 2013. "Rationality and dual process models of reasoning in managerial cognition and decision making," European Management Journal, Elsevier, vol. 31(6), pages 745-754.
    7. Michel Zouboulakis, 2001. "From Mill to Weber: the meaning of the concept of economic rationality," The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 8(1), pages 30-41.
    8. NEAGOE, Daniel, 2014. "Homo Oeconomicus Novus And The Illusion Of Sustainability," Journal of Financial and Monetary Economics, Centre of Financial and Monetary Research "Victor Slavescu", vol. 1(1), pages 302-308.
    9. Volpato, Giuseppe & Stocchetti, Andrea, 2009. "Old and new approaches to marketing. The quest of their epistemological roots," MPRA Paper 30841, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    10. Julie A. Nelson, "undated". "05-04 "Rationality and Humanity: A View from Feminist Economics"," GDAE Working Papers 05-04, GDAE, Tufts University.
    11. Oswaldo Gressani, 2015. "Endogeneous Quantal Response Equilibrium for Normal Form Games," CREA Discussion Paper Series 15-18, Center for Research in Economic Analysis, University of Luxembourg.
    12. Klaus Mohn, 2010. "Autism in Economics? A Second Opinion," Forum for Social Economics, Springer;The Association for Social Economics, vol. 39(2), pages 191-208, July.
    13. Jim Wishloff, 2009. "The Land of Realism and the Shipwreck of Idea-ism: Thomas Aquinas and Milton Friedman on the Social Responsibilities of Business," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 85(2), pages 137-155, March.
    14. Thunström, Linda & Cherry, Todd L. & McEvoy, David M. & Shogren, Jason F., 2016. "Endogenous context in a dictator game," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 65(C), pages 117-120.
    15. Bull, Joe, 2012. "Loads of green washing—can behavioural economics increase willingness-to-pay for efficient washing machines in the UK?," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 242-252.
    16. Markus Wartiovaara, 2011. "Rationality, REMM, and Individual Value Creation," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 98(4), pages 641-648, February.
    17. Ingebrigtsen, Stig & Jakobsen, Ove, 2009. "Moral development of the economic actor," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(11), pages 2777-2784, September.
    18. Michel Zouboulakis, 2010. "Trustworthiness as a Moral Determinant of Economic Activity: Lessons from the Classics," Forum for Social Economics, Springer;The Association for Social Economics, vol. 39(3), pages 209-221, October.
    19. Joanna Dzionek-Kozlowska, 2014. "Economics in Times of Crisis. In Search of a New Paradigm," Lodz Economics Working Papers 5/2014, University of Lodz, Faculty of Economics and Sociology.
    20. Cristina GALALAE & Alexandru VOICU, 2013. "Consumer Behaviour Research: Jacquard Weaving in the Social Sciences," Management Dynamics in the Knowledge Economy Journal, College of Management, National University of Political Studies and Public Administration, vol. 1(2), pages 277-292, August.
    21. Sommerville, Matthew & Jones, Julia P.G. & Rahajaharison, Michael & Milner-Gulland, E.J., 2010. "The role of fairness and benefit distribution in community-based Payment for Environmental Services interventions: A case study from Menabe, Madagascar," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(6), pages 1262-1271, April.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • B12 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought through 1925 - - - Classical (includes Adam Smith)

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