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Life in the Putty-Knife Factory!


  • Geoffrey Brennan


The public choice approach can be used to analyze a wide variety of social phenomena, of which academic activity is one possible example. The object of this paper is to see if the public choice approach can throw useful light on its own rise as a potent body of ideas in contemporary social sciences. The particular focus is a set of reminiscences about the life of the Public Choice Center over the period 1969 to 1983 (and especially 1976 to 1983, when I was myself part of the Center). Reflecting on that period, I attempt to isolate those features of the Center's life that seem to me to have been most important to its success; and then ask broader questions about how much of that success public choice methods might illuminate. The aspect of public choice theory that I focus on in this connection is its account of agent motivation. I assert that the desire for esteem played a greater role in motivating the agents than the desire for "interests," more narrowly construed. The paper concludes with some general thoughts about esteem as a motivating factor in academic circles and more generally. Copyright 2004 American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Inc..

Suggested Citation

  • Geoffrey Brennan, 2004. "Life in the Putty-Knife Factory!," American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 63(1), pages 79-104, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:ajecsc:v:63:y:2004:i:1:p:79-104

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    Cited by:

    1. Silvia Sacchetti, 2013. "Motivational resilience in the university system," Chapters, in: Roger Sugden & Marcela Valania & James R. Wilson (ed.), Leadership and Cooperation in Academia, chapter 8, pages 107-127, Edward Elgar Publishing.

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