Philosophy and Political Economy
This volume is one of the most remarkable works in the history of economic thought. First published in 1893, its principal significance rests in its argument that economic theory, however technical or pragmatic, is necessarily formed by and derives its meaning from larger moral and philosophical systems and assumptions. Bonar traces the inexorable presence of this moral and philosophical element in a vast, though highly nuanced, survey of the economic aspect of major thinkers from Plato to Darwin and demonstrates how modern economic thought, in turn, grew out of one or another branch of philosophy.
Bonar begins with a consideration of Plato and Aristotle, examining their conceptions of wealth, production and distribution, and civil society. Discussions of the Stoics, Epicurians, and early Christianity explore complications introduced by these bodies of thought. His analysis of the classical and medieval world is followed by an extensive treatment of the concept of natural law, from the Renaissance through the Enlightenment, describing its influence and its relation to ideas of natural rights.
The book's later sections concentrate on the dominant modes of ninteenth-cen-tury thought: utilitarianism, idealism, and materialism. Bonar identifies and explores the philosophical topics on which the conduct of technical economic analysis makes assumptions: human nature and human wants, the nature and role of the state, the relation of the individual to society, the nature and origin of property, and the role of ideals in socioeconomic life. He concludes by examining the implications for economics of the theory of evolution arising from the work of Darwin and others.
The continuing interest of this volume for economists, philosophers, and sociologists lies in Bonar's contention that at the heart of the relationship of philosophy to economics is the problem of order: the ongoing need to reconcile conflicts between freedom and control, continuity and change, hierarchy and equality. In his reading, the fundamental question to which philosophy and economics are both brought to bear is that of changing the structure of power and opportunity in the social economy. This is, in short, a classic in the history of economics as well as the economic element in intellectual history.
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Philosophy and Political Economy. James Bonar
Bonar analiza en el capítulo I las nociones de riqueza, producción y distribución en Platón. Habla de una subordinación de las esferas político-económicas al plano ético y que "this subordination is most evident in the case of the notion of wealth". Recuerda un fragmento de las Leyes en donde "Wealth [...] though only in the third rank, is recognised by Plato as an element of real necessity and rationality in human life when it is intelligently and moderately used and not blindly heaped up, without reference to the chief ends of life". Recuerda la caracterización platónica del hombre oligárquico del VIII libro de la República, "the money-maker, who devotes his whole energies to saving and accumulating wealth, instead of spending it; and, since he consumes only what is absolutely necessary to satisfy the needs of his physical nature, he is described as devoting himself to the satisfaction of his 'necessary wants', though, like all misers, he is really not pursuing satisfaction of any concrete wants at all, but an abstraction of the greatest possible quantity of the means of satisfaction generally"(Bonar, p.13).
Otro componente significativo que releva Bonar su análisis de las Leyes de Platón es la existencia de límites naturales a las pulsiones concentracionarias. "Human wants are limited by Nature or Reason; once allow personal enrichment a free course, and the wants of man become insatiable and illimitable in defiance of reason and nature. The notion of infinity is understood, as regards human wants, in a purely negative sense. It means absence of limit, and therefore lawlessness and irrationality".