Chapter 14: Economic Man versus Heterodox Men: The Concepts of Human Nature in Schools of Economic Thought
14. Economic man versus heterodox man: the concepts of human nature in schools of economic thought INTRODUCTION Economic man, the man who acts on pure economic motives alone, is the concept of man at the heart of mainstream economics.1 Heterodox economists, while acknowledging that economic man has served usefully for some purposes, know in diﬀerent ways that economic man is, because it leaves out too much of human nature, a deﬁcient concept of man. They are uncomfortable at best with the idea of characterizing humans in such a reductionist way. This chapter proposes to use the comprehensive view of human nature developed by Ken Wilber to point to the speciﬁc deﬁciencies of economic man. With Wilber’s model of human development as the backdrop, it is possible to map the diﬀerent schools of thought with respect to each other, showing how each of their overlapping conceptions of man include some important elements missing in economic man but fail to include other elements. Finally, the broad conception of human nature allows us to be quite suggestive concerning how economics as a whole, and notably heterodox economics, can improve by using a broader concept of man. THE ESSENCE OF ECONOMIC MAN Homo Economicus or economic man is the well-known human actor at the heart of mainstream economics. Economic man (EM) is self-interested, rational, unchanging, separate and unreﬂective. First, self-interested EM has well-deﬁned preferences for things and experiences that provide satisfaction for the self. EM is oriented...
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