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Requiem for Homo economicus.

Homo economicus rests on the silent premises that human communication today is no different than it was in Adam Smith's day, and therefore human beings relate to each other and to themselves no differently than 225 years ago. In essence, the development of the telegraph followed by the telephone, radio, television, fax, email, and Internet have had no bearing on the way we think about economic agency. Homo economicus never changes.

Proclaiming a requiem for homo economicus is more than just clever rhetoric. The call is grounded in an understanding of human nature that surfaced with the development of electronic communication that altered our awareness of others and of ourselves and gave birth to the philosophy of personalism. Burying homo economicus and substituting homo socioeconomicus brings the basic unit of economic analysis out of the individualism of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries into the personalism of the twentieth century.


There is a huge and steadily growing literature on the meaning of homo economicus that has been used widely and approvingly by mainstream economists for many years. At the same time, and in the same literature, there is some confusion regarding the origins of that expression. For instance, Sheasby (2) attributes it to Adolph Lowe's Economics and Sociology published in 1935. With Zabieglik (3-4) concurring, Persky (1995, 222) identifies the term as originating with Vilfredo Pareto's Manual in 1906, though he openly admits that he had not completed a thorough search of sources in Europe. Pareto (1906, 12) (1) himself ascribes the expression to Vito Volterra in 1901.

Homo Economicus: Origins and Challenges

For that reason, a few years ago, we asked several colleagues to suggest sources that we might search. We were startled to learn that no one knew for sure where the expression originated. They did, however, suggest numerous sources and leads including Menger, Veblen, Mill, and Comte. Even so, none of those sources proved to be older than the one we identified through our own detective work: Maffeo Pantaleoni's Principii di Economia Pura published in 1889. (2) Persky (222) dates the origins of the expression economic man to Ingram's A History of Political Economy published (perhaps not coincidentally) in 1888.

Having said that, we found use of oeconomicus alone in the 1847 and 1826 editions of Karl Rau's Grundsatze Volkswirthschaftslehre (Rau 1847) suggesting that perhaps the full expression originated in the German-language economics literature well before Pantaleoni's use. In a private exchange of correspondence, a colleague who has addressed the meaning of homo economicus extensively in the German-language economics literature volunteered that indeed it might be traced to an early or mid-nineteenth century German writer who initiated its use in order to add more weight to the underlying concept.

Though he never used the expression economic man in his writings, John Stuart Mill is credited with its underlying concepts starting with his 1836 essay "On the Definition of Political Economy; and on the Method of Investigation Proper to It." Mill's abstraction underscored these four human interests: accumulation, leisure, luxury, and procreation. Mill's abstraction steered clear of complex human motivation on grounds that it made economic analysis indeterminate and did not encompass human rationality, which today is centrally important to economic decision-making (Persky 1995, 222-23). (3)

Over the years, there have been several efforts to displace, complement, mimic, poke fun at, or identify the antecedents of homo economicus as indicated in the following:
 homo reciprocans [Gintis and Orr]
 homo politicus [Nyborg]
 homo sociologicus [Hirsch, Michaels, and Friedman;

 homo socioeconomicus [Nitsch; Lindenberg].
 homo hobbesianus and homo darwinianus [Wiker]
 homo orthodox [Dinello]
 neo-homo economicus and paleo-homo economicus
 [Doucouliagos; Pearson]

 homo erroneous and homo gustibus [Pearson]
 homo sovieticus [Josef Tischner]
 homo sapiens [Thaler]
 homo religiosus [Zabieglik]
 homo heroicus [Drucker]

Our immediate interest, however, centers on two other variants: homo heroicus and homo sovieticus. They are alike for two principal reasons. First, and obviously, as with homo economicus each one is grounded in a philosophy that addresses the eternal questions regarding human nature: who? what? and whose? Drucker (1939, 137) juxtapositioned the heroic or noneconomic man of fascism, who functions entirely independently of any economic status, to the economic man of capitalism. According to Drucker, homo heroicus is a new conceptualization of the human being as self-sacrificing, self-disciplined, and self-abnegating. Weber (1964, 40-42) associated the fascist concept of the human being with the medieval knight well-known for "sacrifice, abnegation, and entire devotion to the cause ... and the mystical idea of transcendence by expiation." Homo sovieticus is a human being with no creativity, initiative, or responsibility who through a pact with the state tolerates lies, petty crimes, and poor morale in the workplace in exchange for security. The expression is attributed to Josef Tischner (see Goldfarb 1994, 1; Halik 2003, 4; and Alakbarov 2002, 2). We cannot agree with Persky that homo sovieticus is a close cousin of homo economicus. The one originates in nineteenth-century Marxism, the other in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century individualism. We suggest that by subordinating human beings to the state or collective it is homo heroicus who is the close cousin of homo sovieticus.

Second, while homo sovieticus and homo heroicus have been buried with their failed political systems, we do not rule out the possibility that some day they may be brought back to life by other despotic regimes. More to the point herein, though less obviously so, homo economicus and the individualism upon which it is based are dying of old age. For instance, in his 2001 Nobel lecture, Stiglitz observed that there is considerable evidence that indicates "the economists' traditional model of the individual is too narrow" (Stiglitz 2002, 488). That evidence is found in part in attempts to remake homo economicus as homo reciprocans, homo politicus, homo sociologicus and the other variants enumerated previously.

At approximately the same time, Thaler (2000, 133-41) predicts that homo economicus will evolve into homo sapiens due to developments in other disciplines, notably psychology, that increasingly will be incorporated into economics. Thaler argues for constructing economic models on the basis of an economic agent who better represents the full range of human behavior in economic affairs. To him, economics must recognize the role of emotion in economic agency and integrate it with rationality in economic decision-making. In other words, the never-changing homo economicus of mainstream economics no longer will do. We agree in general with what he says, though we wish he had selected a different expression to reflect a newer philosophy as a replacement for the out-of-date individualism. It seems, however, that Thaler along with Stiglitz has nothing to offer that fleshes out the who, what, and whose of the new economic agent to replace homo economicus. Additionally, at roughly the same time, three articles appeared in the Journal of Economic Perspectives that also asserted that something is missing in the way mainstream economics thinks about economic agency (see Fehr and Gachter 2000, Ostrom 2000, and Manski 2000).

We argue in the following why the time has come to proclaim a requiem for homo economicus.

Earlier Objections to Homo Economicus from Christian Solidarism

The call to move past homo economicus was heard much earlier outside mainstream economics. Writing in the early twentieth century, Pesch much more clearly articulates the root of the problem with homo economicus.
 When individualistic doctrine proclaims the proposition that each
 person knows his own interest better than an unkind and uncaring
 government, and that the interest of one is the interest of all, we
 must be careful not to see in that only a fallacy. Without a doubt,
 the interest of the individual is the interest of all insofar as it
 is also held in bound by the interest of all.

 The fallacy of the individualist conception lies in the fact that,
 instead of assigning the guidance of the endeavors which serve
 one's own "best understood" self-interest to a well-ordered
 self-love, it entrusted this instead to the instinctive self-love
 that operates like a passion, in blind reliance on the "natural"
 goodness of man, and on the "natural order" as perceived by
 individualistic-rationalistic natural law theory; or it expected
 the right "selection" and progress to come from the unrestrained,
 competitive struggle.

 For the masses of the people, however, self-love and one's own
 interest--if the state and the national and the economy are not to
 be destroyed--must find their effective restraints in the moral
 law, in that law which justice and charity call for, and which
 establishes the moral sense of obligation and social
 responsibility. This applies all the more so at a time when the
 immense complexity of the economic process, with its highly
 developed intensity of division of labor, specialization,
 combination, and its millions and millions of convoluted
 relationships, etc, makes persons dependent on one another to a
 degree which past ages could not begin to imagine. (Pesch 2002, 29;
 emphasis in the original).

Pesch set forth a new way of thinking about economic affairs that he called Christian solidarism and in which he proposed solidarist man who incorporates the social dimension to human nature that is missing in homo economicus. To our knowledge, Pesch never latinized this different conceptualization of the economic agent. However, in sharp contrast to Thaler and Stiglitz, he embraced the Scholasticism of Thomas Aquinas and applied it to modern economic affairs unlike anyone before or since. Though Pesch's body of work is truly impressive, it never won favor except among a small circle of Catholic social economists in the mid-1900s.

More Recent Objections from Catholic Social Economics

Some fifty years ago Walker (1995, 69-77) called attention to the evolutionary process already underway. He argues that the economic agent has evolved from the accumulator of wealth, a concept that was widely embraced until well into the twentieth century, to the allocator of economic means between various material ends in order to enhance his or her own well-being. The allocator concept was introduced more recently by Robbins and his followers and is dominant within contemporary mainstream economics. Though clearly different, these two concepts are alike in that both are based on an inward-directed economic agent. Both underscore human individuality. Walker points to two other concepts, neither of which has replaced the allocator concept: the supporter of socially endorsed ethical standards and the cooperator in provisioning human material and cultural wants and needs. Both are alike in that they are based on an outward-directed economic agent. Both emphasize human sociality.

By confining economic agency to the role of the allocator, whose behavior is strictly optimizing mainstream economics, one is able to greatly simplify economic analysis and to achieve the appearance of greater certainty in its findings. By including all four roles--allocator, accumulator, supporter, and cooperator--a new economics encompasses a wider range of fundamental human actions in economic affairs in which human beings from time to time switch from one role to another role, sometimes acting in accord with one role only, and at times in keeping with two or more roles as their own personal circumstances require. Human beings are complex creatures, often torn between the demands placed on them by these different roles and therefore not always able to act as optimizing allocators. By making the economic agent more complex, the new economics renders economic analysis more problematic, calling for more hands-on experience in the details of the specific economic affairs under investigation and leading to less certainty with regard to specific empirical findings.

Pesch and Walker were not alone in voicing their concern about the adequacy of the mainstream conceptualization of the economic agent. A small band of critics who called themselves Catholic social economists and who included Walker found an important outlet in the Review of Social Economy. Using an analogy to the construction of a house, Dirksen points in a very general way (in 1946) to the philosophy that for two centuries supplied the underpinnings for homo economicus.
 The special role of the Catholic economist is, first, to lay [the]
 foundation, and then, secondly, to align the various segments of
 the economic structure in accordance with it. He is a builder who
 wishes to follow the architectural plans of a sound philosophy....

 ... every economist accepts certain basic characteristics of human
 nature which is nothing else than accepting a certain philosophy of
 man. Whether he accepts one set of characteristics or another
 doesn't matter; he is dependent upon some kind of philosophy of

 No one will deny that the dominant social philosophy of the past
 two hundred years has been a liberalistic, atomistic, materialistic
 concept of social organization. (Dirksen 1946, 15, 19)

Boulding (1954, 6-7) asserts that the type of personality that emerges from market behavior and market institutions is devoid of the "richness of full human relationship," and insists that economic man is more than the sum of certain minor virtues and vices such as honesty, thriftiness, industriousness, niggardliness, parsimoniousness, and chicanery. Because he or she misses the "Great Virtue" of love, economic man is less than the more fully human person who yearns for "the Divine, the heroic, the sanctified and the uneconomic."

Baerwald (1954, 13), too, finds something seriously amiss with economic man in that human desires extend "beyond the satisfaction of material wants," encompassing the need to belong and the need for workplace opportunities to apply one's creative talents and energies.

Writing in German originally, though his article was published in English in the Review more than twenty-five years later, Briefs holds a similar position that centers economic agency around the person instead of the individual.
 Man as a person lived in communal structures that nurtured and
 elevated his personhood. As a person, therefore, man is
 irreplaceable and thus more than a mere individual. (Briefs 1983,

Inspired by Mounier's personalist philosophy that clearly differentiates person, Danner demonstrates that the means-value utility--defined as what is useful--is the linkage between philosophic value and economic value (Danner 1982, 179-81, 195-98). Perhaps no one today understands the economic agent as person better than Danner (2002) in his The Economic Person. (4)

Four other articles were published in the Review that focused on the person of the worker, the manager, the businessman, and the entrepreneur. Dempsey's indictment of American society relates not so much to what depersonalization does to human beings that keeps them from realizing their full potential, but to what it does not do to help every human being become a more fully human person. While admitting that "discuss[ing] the Worker as Person is not easy" Dempsey asserts that "if we are to be realistic in America we must discuss the person working" (Dempsey 1954, 21-23). For Americans, in other words, work is a major contributing or detracting factor in a human being's realization of his or her full potentiality as a human person.

In his article on the manager as a person, Hayes (1954, 38-47) represents the manager as more than just a self-interested individual. The manager as a person is mindful of the dignity of others "with a deep concern for the health and welfare of his workers ..., develop[s] insofar as his efforts will permit the talents of those who are responsible to him ... and [is committed] to reasonably continuous employment once a person is placed on the payroll." Whatever the enterprise might ask of him or her, the busy manager as a person retains certain rights including the right to marry and to a family life and the right to know how well he or she is performing as a manager, and embodies such personal characteristics as "integrity, fairness, ability to inspire, teach and develop."

Froehlich (1996, 129-30) calls attention to two theories of the firm that he refers to as (1) organizational analysis and (2) decision-making under conditions of uncertainty in that he speculates that the businessman is represented as a person "more fully open to all kinds of moral, pseudo-moral, traditional and other influences, and more fully a human being than the pale figure traditional theory has let us surmise."

O'Boyle (1994, 335) represents the person of the entrepreneur as a fusion of individuality and sociality, of masculinity and femininity. As to individuality, the entrepreneur is a human being with a need to utilize his or her own unique creative talents through competition. As to sociality, the entrepreneur has a need to belong that is expressed through cooperation. The entrepreneur with a predominantly masculine personality likely is more successful in the competitive milieu of the marketplace. In contrast, the entrepreneur with a largely feminine personality likely is more successful in the cooperative environment of the workplace.

Over the years, other contributors to the Review have addressed the issue as to what it means to be a human being. Hunt in 1978 and Wible in 1984 in particular come to mind because they were selected for authoring two of the twelve best articles published in the Review during the first fifty-five years (1944-1999) that the Review has been published.

From Homo Economicus to Homo Socioeconomicus: Linkage to Developments in Human Communication

Ong is the one who reveals the connecting link between human communication and philosophy from which we argue that the individualism that originated in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and gave us the individual, homo economicus, as the basic unit of economic analysis is giving way to personalism that emerged in the twentieth century and gives us instead the person, homo socioeconomicus.

Briefly, human communication has passed through three distinct stages: the oral stage, the script stage, and the electronic stage. In the oral stage, communication was strictly face to face, thereby drawing humans closer together and requiring economic agents to interact face to face. Their sociality as human beings was underscored in this stage. In the script stage, especially after the invention of the printing press, interaction between economic agents could occur at great distances over an extended period of time without their ever meeting face to face. Their individuality as humans was accentuated in this stage while their sociality was subdued because they had to be more self-reliant in economic affairs. In the electronic stage, which was launched by the invention of the telegraph, economic agents interact over very long distances but in a very short period of time, in effect making them more other-reliant in day-to-day economic affairs without suppressing their individuality. The economic agent in the electronic stage is both an individual being and a social being, no longer just an individual but a person. Ong asserts that personalism emerged in the electronic stage. (5) We in turn assert the following principle: Where powerful means of human communication are inexpensive and readily available, reliance on others in economic affairs is inevitable.

Homo economicus is the creature born from the individualism of the script stage. Homo socioeconomicus is the new human being conceived by the personalism that emerged in the electronic stage. There is no holding on to homo economicus with confidence unless one is prepared to deny the influence of the telegraph, telephone, radio, television, fax, email, and Internet. Probably without fully appreciating his own insight, Marshall confirms human communication as the driving force behind the evolutionary process that compels us to call for interring homo economicus:
 the growing power of the telegraph, the press, and other means of
 communication are ever widening the scope of collective action for
 the public good. (Marshall 1948, 25)

 The causes of [the rise in earnings of exceptional genius] are
 chiefly two; firstly, the general growth of wealth; and secondly,
 the development of new facilities for communication, by which men,
 who have once attained a commanding position, are enabled to apply
 their constructive or speculative genius to undertakings vaster,
 and extending over a wider area, than ever before. (Marshall 1948,

Homo Socioeconomicus: Consumer and Worker

In the following, we compare and contrast script-stage homo economicus who is totally an individual human being and electronic-stage homo socioeconomicus who is a fusion of individuality and sociality along two centrally important economic activities: consumption and work.

The Consumer

Characterized as homo economicus, the consumer is unique, solitary, autonomous, self-centered, and self-made--traits that accent the consumer's individuality. For example, the practice of power dressing and the popularity of health foods, along with cosmetic surgery and liposuction, give evidence of a consumer who is self-made. Self-centered and self-interested consumers properly purchase goods and services for their own use without necessarily becoming selfish unless moderation has been entirely cast aside.

The consumer behaves predictably in ways that are described as utility-maximizing, privacy-protecting, and commodity-acquiring. In American culture, acquiring and accumulating goods are perceived as a sign of success. As homo economicus, the consumer is free to choose whatever he or she is able to afford, makes those choices informed strictly by reason for the purpose of satisfying some want, and takes into account not only experiences in the past but also hopes and plans for the future. Adults, for instance, typically plan years ahead for their retirement, carefully budgeting--rationally planning income and expenses--to achieve that goal.

Comparisons are made, but they are rigorously intrapersonal or inward-looking, wherein consumers evaluate their own needs and wants over time without any regard for others. Our language points to specific instances of the consumer acting mainly according to human individuality. The trendsetter and the traditionalist are consumers with much individuality. The conformist is one with little individuality.

Even so, there is more to the consumer than even this expanded perspective from mainstream economics. Characterized as homo socioeconomicus, the consumer is a social being as well as an individual being and as such is both unique and alike, solitary and communal, autonomous and dependent, self-centered and other-centered, self-made and culture bound. Soul food and Cajun cuisine originate in specific cultures and appeal especially to persons born and raised in those cultural environments. Preteens are persons who are dependent on their parents for the things they need and want. Similarly, the elderly may become dependent on their children because of some debilitating condition.

Additionally, as homo socioeconomicus, the consumer behaves in ways that are described as at once utility-maximizing and utility-satisfying, privacy-protecting and company-seeking, and commodity-acquiring and gift-giving. At times, a person will take less in terms of the maximum utility available at the moment so that a friend might have more. Or both may decide to share what they have, each one taking less than the maximum available if he or she were to exclude the other, in order that the other might have more, thereby affirming and strengthening their friendship.

As homo socioeconomicus, the consumer is free to choose whatever he or she is able to afford but is morally accountable for the choices made and makes those choices informed by reason and emotion, both by mind and heart, for the purpose of satisfying some want or meeting some need. Fear drives some consumer choices, as at times with handguns and security systems. Some persons known as compulsive consumers or shopaholics are addicted to shopping. Their choices are not rationally determined, nor are they freely made. As with homo economicus, homo socioeconomicus is not only hindsighted but also foresighted as when parents have to reduce their current consumption for years in order to set aside sufficient funds for their children's future education.

Human individuality prompts the consumer to make comparisons that are intrapersonal, but his or her human sociality encourages regard for others. Here, as well, our language informs us about the consumer whose behavior reflects human sociality. The free rider or deadbeat is a person with little sociality. The caring neighbor and the philanthropist are consumers with much sociality.

Because humans are at once individual beings and social beings, conflict is a regular element in human affairs. Thus, consumers often are called on to resolve conflicts between self and others as, for example, between the teenager who wants a car and the parents who have to pay insurance on that car but really want to upgrade to a digital television, between saving for the children's education or for one's own retirement, between traveling to a friend's funeral and supporting his widow or attending a high school reunion. By recognizing the issue of conflict resolution in consumer choice, it follows that the behavior of homo socioeconomicus is more difficult to predict than the conduct of homo economicus who encounters no such conflicts. Thus, we have the reluctance in mainstream economics to put aside homo economicus even in the face of overwhelming evidence that economic man no longer accurately represents the economic agent in the global economy.

Further, humans need more than the goods and services required for physical well-being. The human spirit seeks goodness, truth, and beauty in various forms such as music, art, drama, nature, literature, dance, and sports. In searching for the good, the true, and the beautiful in whatever form they might take, it is necessary to purchase goods and services. To attend a concert, it is necessary to pay an admission fee. To enjoy the beauty of the seashore or the mountains, certain travel expenses are necessary. In other words, one cannot experience goodness, truth, and beauty without purchasing certain goods and services such as airline tickets, hotel accommodations, restaurant meals, and thus an important dimension of consumption is to meet the needs of the human spirit.

It could be argued that homo economicus addresses the needs of the spirit through leisure activities. However, mainstream economics assigns leisure a negative formulation--time spent not working--and in that sense skirts the issue of those kinds of needs. An economics that defines the economic agent in terms of person rather than individual, a personalist economics, gives leisure a positive formulation--time spent in activities that meet the needs of the spirit--and thereby construes leisure as contributing to personal development.

The Worker

Work has two principal effects: on the goods and services that are produced and on the person who does the work. Personalist economics presents the person who works as homo socioeconomicus for the same reason it characterizes the consumer as homo socioeconomicus. The worker is two-dimensional, at once an individual being and a social being, capable of competing with coworkers and cooperating with them. Further, the worker is a real, living, breathing person engaged in economic affairs and not merely a resource to be used in the production process. The worker, in other words, has dignity well beyond and apart from the instrumental value that attaches to his or her contribution to economic affairs.

Human beings work in order to earn the income to purchase the goods and services that meet human physical need and satisfy human physical wants--both of which originate in the human body. The amount of income earned through work depends in principle on the significance of the worker's total contribution to the production of goods and services. Thus, earnings are linked to the first main effect of work and therefore are an implicit affirmation of the principle of private property that asserts the simple truth that whatever is produced belongs to the person who produces it.

Humans also work to meet the need for work as such that originates in the human spirit. The need for work as such is linked to the second main effect of work and is two-dimensional, conforming to the duality of human nature.

Because he or she is an individual being, the worker has a need for work that provides on-the-job opportunities for the utilization of his or her own special gifts and talents. This is done by incorporating into the worker's job description specific tasks that require the use of those gifts and talents. The uniqueness of the worker is underscored here.

Because he or she is a social being as well, the worker has a need for a job that makes him or her a respected partner in the work being done by the company that employs him or her. A real sense of belonging follows when the company has made an effective effort to integrate the worker into the organization such that whenever the worker is absent he or she is genuinely missed by others who work for the company. The worker's need for acceptance and inclusion is underscored here.

It follows that work is an opportunity for homo socioeconomicus to develop more fully as a person by (1) meeting the need for self-expression through his or her own individual contributions, and (2) meeting the need to belong through the formation of integrated and inclusive teams in the workplace. Self-expression proceeds from and enhances the individual contribution of the worker that flows from authentic self-interest that is necessary for human survival. Belonging proceeds from and enhances teamwork that flows from caring for others that is rooted in a person's moral perceptivity--the ability to sense or to be aware of the needs of others.

Thus, whether we are talking about consumption, leisure, or work, homo economicus and homo socioeconomicus differ in two critical ways. First, homo economicus is strictly an individual human being; homo socioeconomicus is at once an individual being and a social being. Second, homo economicus is an embodied creature; homo socioeconomicus is both body and spirit--more properly characterized as an embodied spirit.

Requiem for Homo Economicus: Closing Remarks

Economic agency is at the very core of our understanding of economic affairs because, as Marshall (1948, 1) suggested more than one hundred years ago, economic reality ultimately is what ordinary people do in the everyday conduct of their economic affairs. There is, in other words, no single concept more significant to the economic way of thinking than homo economicus. The fact that as a concept homo economicus traces back to the very origins of economics as a separate discipline and today is taught and accepted so widely across economics, often with no effort to examine and reflect on its meaning, is indicative of the grip that this concept has on those who teach and those who are taught the economic way of thinking.

As a mainstream economics concept, homo economicus rests on the silent premises that human communication today is no different than it was in Smith's day, and therefore human beings relate to each other and to themselves no differently than 225 years ago. In essence, the development of the telegraph roughly 150 years ago, followed by the telephone, radio, television, fax, email, and Internet human communication has had no bearing on the way we think about economic agency. Homo economicus never changes.

Declaring a requiem for homo economicus is more than just clever rhetoric. It is based on more than just terms and expressions borrowed from other disciplines and is grounded in an understanding of human nature that surfaced with the development of the electronic stage of human communication that altered our awareness of others and of ourselves and gave birth to the philosophy of personalism. Burying homo economicus and substituting homo socioeconomicus brings the basic unit of economic analysis out of the individualism of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries into the personalism of the twentieth century.


Homo socioeconomicus has been used throughout in part to underscore it as a replacement for the outdated homo economicus and in part to emphasize that we mean for the economic agent to retain the human individuality expressed in homo economicus all the while incorporating the human sociality that so clearly characterizes all human beings. Of late, however, we have begun to use instead the acting person or the person in action in part because it upholds person as a replacement for individual and in part because it highlights acting or action in economic affairs--producing, distributing, exchanging, consuming, investing, credit-creating, lending, borrowing, innovating, developing, and (re)vitalizing--as critical to economic agency and to the development of the human being as a person. In that sense the acting person or person in action inserts Christian personalism into economic agency.


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Edward J. O'Boyle

Senior Research Associate

Mayo Research Institute.


(1.) In the English text; p. 14 in the Italian text.

(2.) Pantaleoni used it on pages 11, 30-31, 53, 58, 67, 68, 106-7, and 120.

(3.) Persky overlooks Smith's contributions in identifying the characteristics of economic man. See, for example, Wealth of Nations on the role of self-interest in the exchange process (p. 13), on unlimited wants (p. 164), on the gain necessary in order to motivate the farmer to feed his cattle (p. 232), on the interest of dealers in widening the market and narrowing the competition (p. 250), on frugality as a predominating principle in human nature (pp. 324-25). In his introduction to The Modern Library edition of Wealth of Nations, Max Lerner states, "What [Smith] wrote was the expression of forces which were working, at the very time he wrote it, to fashion that strange and terrible new species--homo oeconomicus--or the economic man of the modern world." Lerner goes on to say that Smith's economic man is not "the lifeless abstraction which economic theorists have invented to slay any proposals for social change, and which has in turn slain them" (Lerner, p. v).

(4.) For a review of Danner's book, see Welch (pp. 551-55).

(5.) See Ong 1967 for more on the three stages of human communication.
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Date:Sep 22, 2007
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