Economics at your fingertips  

Classical and neoclassical conceptions of rationality--Findings of an exploratory survey

Milan Zafirovski

Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), 2008, vol. 37, issue 2, 789-820

Abstract: This article overviews and illustrates the idea of rationality within traditional economic theory. It provides selected examples of a number of pertinent ideas of rationality from classical political economy and early and late neoclassical economics. Based on an exploratory historical analysis, the finding is that theoretical holism or socio-economic pluralism has declined in favor of (economic) reductionism in analyzing rationality. The article finds that the traditional (Enlightenment) conceptualization of rationality by the category of 'reason' (reasonable behavior) has weakened in relation to a utilitarian-economic definition by 'utility' or 'profit' maximization. Rationality has become a narrower, more reductive concept as economics has evolved. It began as a rich, holistic and complex socio-economic concept, then condensed into utilitarianism, shrank into instrumentalism and any pertinent psychological content had disappeared by WW II. Notably, the Benthamite reductive concept of rationalism as utilitarianism and in part hedonism has prevailed in early and late neoclassical economics. The paper also infers a sort of serendipitous detection of the operation of the non-rational 'residual' in socio-economic life as well as a paradox in the form of the irrationality of extreme rationality within traditional economics.

Date: 2008
References: Add references at CitEc
Citations: View citations in EconPapers (1) Track citations by RSS feed

Downloads: (external link) ... 7051044403c5a51aa109
Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

Related works:
This item may be available elsewhere in EconPapers: Search for items with the same title.

Export reference: BibTeX RIS (EndNote, ProCite, RefMan) HTML/Text

Persistent link:

Access Statistics for this article

Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics) is currently edited by Ofer Azar

More articles in Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics) from Elsevier
Bibliographic data for series maintained by Haili He ().

Page updated 2020-05-02
Handle: RePEc:eee:soceco:v:37:y:2008:i:2:p:789-820