Handbook of Economics and Ethics
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Handbook of Economics and Ethics

Edited by Jan Peil and Irene van Staveren

The Handbook of Economics and Ethics portrays an understanding of economic methodology in which facts and values, though distinct, are closely interconnected in a variety of ways. From theory building to data collection, and from modelling to policy evaluation, this encyclopaedic Handbook is at the intersection of economics and ethics.
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Chapter 33: Identity

John B. Davis


John B. Davis Economics has only recently begun to employ and analyse the concept of ‘identity’ as applied to economic agents, and substantial differences still exist regarding its meaning and significance. The two main forms of the concept are ‘social identity’ and ‘personal identity’. Social identity concerns an individual’s identification with others, and personal identity concerns an individual’s identity apart from others or their identity as a single individual through time. Social identity theory has been an important subject of investigation in social psychology since the 1970s (see Brown 2000), whereas personal identity has been investigated by philosophers in connection with the concept of the self throughout the history of the subject, especially in post-war analytic philosophy (see Martin and Barresi 2003). Though social psychology is almost exclusively concerned with social identity, and philosophy is almost exclusively concerned with personal identity, the two are clearly related. When we ask who it is that has many social identities, we naturally raise the question of personal identity; when we ask how a single individual can have many selves over time, we often associate an individual’s many selves with their different social identities. Nonetheless, social psychology and philosophy maintain a fairly sharp division of labour regarding the two forms, which has created problems for its adoption in economics. Indeed, economics has generally ignored the relation between the two concepts, often treating instead social identity or personal identity, whereas both forms can be seen to be part of what is involved in any complete...

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