Thursday, October 08, 2009

The Invention of Homo Economicus

Terence Netto writes on "Anwar Ibrahim at Berkeley in Din Merican: the Malaysian DJ Blogger: Remove Authorianism and Dictatorship" (8 October) HERE

"Anwar’s Bridging Ability

Anwar’s penchant for synthesizing thought from Islamic and western streams recently drew attention from an unlikely quarter. Sholto Byrnes, assistant editor of the British left wing publication, New Statesman, said in a column in the September 3rd edition, that Anwar had once commented that “Asian man was ‘Homo religiosus’ “.
Evidently, the term was derived from Adam Smith, the Scottish moral philosopher and economic theorist, who founded classical economics on the premise of the rational “economic” man – “Homo economicus”. Anwar is fond of quoting from Adam Smith’s books, especially The Theory of Moral Sentiments

Adam Smith did not found ‘classical economics’ on the premise of ‘Homo economicus’. The idea of the perfectly rational man in economic behaviour came much later in the 1870s (Smith’s last edition of Wealth Of Nations was published in 1790, a few weeks before he died.

It did not mention or imply Homo economicus, which is associated with the ‘marginalist economics’ of Jevons, Walras and others, and is elaborated in the 20th century as neo-classical economics and general equilibrium theorists of the 1950s onwards.

It alleged association with Adam Smith is a modern invention.



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