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The price of the market: pursuit of self-interest as annihilation of self

Listed author(s):
  • Robert Urquhart


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    The paper criticizes the view that the market provides for the well-being of individuals by offering the widest field for the pursuit of self-interest. It argues, first, that this view is disastrously mistaken because it misunderstands what individuals are, but, second, that proponents of this view—notably Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations and the neoclassical economists—actually show the opposite of what they claim: that is, they show that pursuit of self-interest in the market is the annihilation of self. Thus, the proponents of the view show that it is untenable and at least point toward the terms necessary for a more adequate alternative. The paper then asks whether the market must be like this, first, through considering a line of thought on the possibility of a non-predatory market that runs from Aristotle, through the Italian Civil Happiness school, to modern socialist writers. Second, it offers an alternative view of the individual, according to which individuality is in part constituted through substantial relations with other individuals, a version of which can be found in Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments and Lectures on Jurisprudence. On the basis of these two discussions, a market order that sustains rather than destroys individuals can be imagined. However, this order would have lost many central characteristics of the capitalist market order. Copyright Springer-Verlag 2012

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    Article provided by Springer & Happiness Economics and Interpersonal Relations (HEIRS) in its journal International Review of Economics.

    Volume (Year): 59 (2012)
    Issue (Month): 4 (December)
    Pages: 431-457

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    Handle: RePEc:spr:inrvec:v:59:y:2012:i:4:p:431-457
    DOI: 10.1007/s12232-012-0159-8
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    1. Davis,John B., 2010. "Individuals and Identity in Economics," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9781107001923, March.
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