On the Economic Approach to Institutional Organization
New Horizons in Management series
Chapter 1: A Question of Method and Approach: In Search of Human Nature in Organization Research?
The nature of man in these current economic models continues . . . to reflect the particular formulation of certain general philosophical questions posed in the past. The realism of the chosen conception of man is simply not a part of this inquiry. . . . The complex psychological issues underlying choice have recently been forcefully brought out by a number of penetrating studies dealing with consumer decisions and production activities. (Sen, 1990, pp. 28, 30) The naivety of modern empirical economists in this respect verges on absurdity. (Buchanan, 1991, p. 18) From the ‘beginning’ of economics in the days of Adam Smith, the portrayal of ‘economic man’ as a self-interested, calculating maximizer of own gain has incited behavioral researchers. Over time, such disputes regarding the behavioral portrayal of human nature in economic research have not abated. The Ftwist debate between Simon and Friedman is an example from the 1960s, which was preceded and followed by similar arguments (see Buchanan 1991; Sen 1990; for reviews of early debate on this issue, see Scott 1995a: 2–5; Machlup 1967). Of course, this debate reaches further than the studies of Smith. Political and social philosophers, such as Hobbes, were battered by behavioral critics for said egoistic and war-like views on human nature (for example Bramhall 1995; Clarendon 1995; Filmer 1995; Lawson 1995; for reviews, see Rogers 1995; Mintz 1962). Similarly, Kant puzzled behavioral researchers by suggesting that even devils could create a decent society (Homann 1997: 14, 1990: 13; Baurmann and Kliemt 1995: 15; Vanberg 1994: 6; Pyle...
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