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Self-Interest before Adam Smith
A Genealogy of Economic Science

Part of Ideas in Context

  • Date Published: May 2007
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521036191

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  • Self-Interest before Adam Smith inquires into the foundations of economic theory. It is generally assumed that the birth of modern economic science, marked by the publication of The Wealth of Nations in 1776, was the triumph of the 'selfish hypothesis' (the idea that self-interest is the motive of human action). Yet, as a neo-Epicurean idea, this hypothesis had been a matter of controversy for over a century and Smith opposed it from a neo-Stoic point of view. But how can the Epicurean principles of orthodox economic theory be reconciled with the Stoic principles of Adam Smith's philosophy? Pierre Force shows how Smith's theory refutes the 'selfish hypothesis' and integrates it at the same time. He also explains how Smith appropriated Rousseau's 'republican' critique of modern commercial society, and makes the case that the autonomy of economic science is an unintended consequence of Smith's 'republican' principles.

    • A major study of the conceptual and historical background to the concept of self-interest, the first principle of economic science
    • Explains Adam Smith's complex relationship to the 'selfish hypothesis' and explores his appropriation of Rousseau's 'republican' critique of commercial society
    • An outstanding contribution from a major scholar
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    Product details

    • Date Published: May 2007
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521036191
    • length: 300 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 150 x 12 mm
    • weight: 0.446kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Acknowledgements
    Introduction
    1. Self-interest as a first principle
    2. Epicurean vs. stoic schemes
    3. Self-interest and reason
    4. Passions, interests and society
    5. Interested and disinterested commerce
    6. Self-interest and the public good
    Conclusion
    Bibliography
    Index.

  • Author

    Pierre Force, Columbia University, New York
    Pierre Force received his academic training in France, where he was a fellow of the École normale supérieure. He took his BA (1979), doctorate (1987), and habilitation (1994) at the Sorbonne. He first came to the United States in 1984 as a lecturer at Yale University, and he joined the Columbia faculty in 1987. His field of research is seventeenth and eighteenth-century intellectual history. He is the author of Le Problème herméneutique chez Pascal (Paris: Vrin, 1989), Molière ou Le Prix des choses (Paris: Nathan, 1994), and Self-Interest before Adam Smith (Cambridge University Press, 2003).

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