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Homo Economicus Goes Native, 1859-1945: The Rise and Fall of Primitive Economics

Homo Economicus Goes Native, 1859-1945: The Rise and Fall of Primitive Economics History of Political Economy 32:4 (2000) missionary reports for support of ideas that seemed simply too logical to be false. As such, it will come as no surprise that scholars just as rarely saw grounds in their conjectures to doubt the universality of Homo economicus, the model of humanity derived from hedonism and instrumental rationality that was the Enlightenment’s gift to political economy. “The great end of all human activity,” David Hume ([1742] 1985, 148) once wrote, is the attainment of happiness. . . . Even the lonely savage, who lies exposed to the inclemency of the elements, and the fury of wild beasts, forgets not, for a moment, this grand object of his being. Ignorant as he is of every art of life, he still keeps in view the end of all those arts, and eagerly seeks for felicity amidst that darkness with which he is environed.2 Hume’s friend Adam Smith claimed nothing so baldly in The Wealth of Nations, but the idea of a primitive Homo economicus is nevertheless suggested in his assertion of “a natural propensity in human nature . . . to truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another,” in his image of http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png History of Political Economy Duke University Press

Homo Economicus Goes Native, 1859-1945: The Rise and Fall of Primitive Economics

History of Political Economy , Volume 32 (4) – Dec 1, 2000

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Publisher
Duke University Press
Copyright
Copyright 2000 by Duke University Press
ISSN
0018-2702
eISSN
1527-1919
DOI
10.1215/00182702-32-4-933
Publisher site
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Abstract

History of Political Economy 32:4 (2000) missionary reports for support of ideas that seemed simply too logical to be false. As such, it will come as no surprise that scholars just as rarely saw grounds in their conjectures to doubt the universality of Homo economicus, the model of humanity derived from hedonism and instrumental rationality that was the Enlightenment’s gift to political economy. “The great end of all human activity,” David Hume ([1742] 1985, 148) once wrote, is the attainment of happiness. . . . Even the lonely savage, who lies exposed to the inclemency of the elements, and the fury of wild beasts, forgets not, for a moment, this grand object of his being. Ignorant as he is of every art of life, he still keeps in view the end of all those arts, and eagerly seeks for felicity amidst that darkness with which he is environed.2 Hume’s friend Adam Smith claimed nothing so baldly in The Wealth of Nations, but the idea of a primitive Homo economicus is nevertheless suggested in his assertion of “a natural propensity in human nature . . . to truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another,” in his image of

Journal

History of Political EconomyDuke University Press

Published: Dec 1, 2000

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