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Could homo oeconomicus become a revolutionary ? On the need to teach and practice a different economics


  • Christian ARNSPERGER

    (FNRS - Belgium and Chaire Hoover - UCL - Belgium)

  • Philippe DE VILLE

    (IRES- UCL - Belgium)


This paper investigates the standard economic paradigm as to the possibility for the agents to become revolutionaries, i.e., to develop the desire and effective action to overturn the prevailing social order. We take our cue from Amartya Sen’s remark that the Second Fundamental Theorem of Welfare Economics might be part of ‘a revolutionary’s handbook’. In analyzing the meaning of Sen’s assertion, we uncover the deep-lying difficulties which the standard paradigm, characterized by a vision of individuals as self-enclosed ‘monads’ and of social order as monadological coordiantion, has in even making sense of the notion of revolution. We are thus led to the intermediary conclusion that the neoclassical paradigm is structurally unable to see the agents as (even only potential) revolutionaries. In the course of our demonstration, we show that economics needs to be conceived not primarily as a ‘teaching about’, the economic system and the agents ’actions, but as a ‘resource for’ the agents within the model itself to reflect on the directions they want to give to social change. We endow the economic agents themselves (and not just the theorist who looks at them ‘from above’) with a significant capacity to educate themselves in order to form a judgment about what kind of economy they want to act in. In other words, asking whether the economic agents might in some cases become revolutionaries leads us to militate for the need to fully endogenize economics as a component of the economic model itself.

Suggested Citation

  • Christian ARNSPERGER & Philippe DE VILLE, 2002. "Could homo oeconomicus become a revolutionary ? On the need to teach and practice a different economics," Discussion Papers (IRES - Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales) 2002037, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
  • Handle: RePEc:ctl:louvir:2002037

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Mount, Kenneth & Reiter, Stanley, 1974. "The informational size of message spaces," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 8(2), pages 161-192, June.
    2. Sen, Amartya, 1993. "Markets and Freedoms: Achievements and Limitations of the Market Mechanism in Promoting Individual Freedoms," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 45(4), pages 519-541, October.
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    More about this item


    Revolution; agency; economic models; epistemology of economics; critical theory;

    JEL classification:

    • A11 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Role of Economics; Role of Economists
    • A13 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Social Values
    • A2 - General Economics and Teaching - - Economic Education and Teaching of Economics
    • B41 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - Economic Methodology
    • D74 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances; Revolutions
    • P5 - Economic Systems - - Comparative Economic Systems

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