Self-Interest before Adam Smith: A Genealogy of Economic Science (Google eBook)

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Cambridge University Press, Sep 4, 2003 - Philosophy - 279 pages
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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.
  

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Contents

1 Selfinterest as a first principle
7
2 Epicurean vs Stoic schemes
48
3 Selfinterest and reason
91
4 Passions interests and society
135
5 Interested and disinterested commerce
169
6 Selfinterest and the public good
205
Conclusion
256
Bibliography
264
Index
276
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About the author (2003)

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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