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On Human Behavior, Human Fulfillment, and the Nature of the Workplace


  • Jon D. Wisman


Many notable heterodox economists have viewed workplace democracy as essential for the realization of the Enlightenment ideals of liberty, equality, and community. Yet the economics profession has never given their ideal more than a passing and dismissive glance. The reasons for this have been well-covered in the literature. But one reason that has been all but ignored is that the theory of human behavior that is credited to Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations and that has dominated economic thinking ever since is not supportive of workplace democracy. However, Smith developed a far richer theory of human behavior in his Theory of Moral Sentiments. His fuller theory depicted humans as fully social beings, in need of community. This article outlines the “social approbation” theory of human behavior that Smith developed in his Theory of Moral Sentiments and demonstrates how it is in accord with the findings of contemporary evolutionary psychology. It then examines the manner in which this theory suggests workplace democracy as the appropriate organizational form of control for society's sphere of production.

Suggested Citation

  • Jon D. Wisman, 2009. "On Human Behavior, Human Fulfillment, and the Nature of the Workplace," Working Papers 2009-15 JEL classificatio, American University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:amu:wpaper:2009-15

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Easterlin, Richard A, 2001. "Income and Happiness: Towards an Unified Theory," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(473), pages 465-484, July.
    2. repec:mes:jeciss:v:17:y:1983:i:3:p:769-789 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Smith, Adam, 1776. "An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, number smith1776.
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    Adam Smith; Self-interest; Altruism; Approbation; Cooperation; Workplace democracy;

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