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classical economic man : Human Agency and Methodology in the Political Economy of Adam Smith and J.S. Mill

classical economic man : Human Agency and Methodology in the Political Economy of Adam Smith and J.S. Mill

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In Classical Economic Man, Allen Oakley argues that two of the fathers of modern economics espoused methodological strategies which rejected the concept of 'economic man' and gave primacy to the human origins of economic phenomena.

Adam Smith and J.S. Mill are shown to have been sensitive to the need for a pluralistic methodology in economics, constructed in accordance with its demands as a strictly human science that must contend with the contingencies of situated human conduct. Each went on to explicitly confront this in their theoretical arguments and in the design of their economic policy strategies. Drawing extensively on the original literature, Professor Oakley demonstrates that Smith's approach through moral philosophy, and Mill's through psychology and the philosophy of science, alerted them to the problems of giving proper representation to human agents in formal, scientific analyses. Smith and Mill, it is argued, rejected a classical orthodoxy that required methodology to be driven by the ambition to emulate the epistemology of the physical sciences.

Scholars and students of the history of economic methodology and doctrines will welcome this important study which builds upon the original arguments, extending the interpretation to include often neglected details about the nature of classical methodology and its use of the concept of the 'economic man'.

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