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The Birth of Homo Œconomicus: The methodological debate on the economic agent from J.S. Mill to V. Pareto

Maxime Desmarais-Tremblay and Michele Bee

No nf8xw, OSF Preprints from Center for Open Science

Abstract: This paper proposes a genealogy of the concept of homo œconomicus as it emerged from the methodological debate on the economic agent of political economy. If Mill gave birth to the economic man in his 1836 Essay “On the Definition of Political Economy,” he certainly did not baptize him. The expression was introduced by Francis A. Walker after Mill passed away in the 1870s. Economic man acquired its Latin name of homo œconomicus under the pen of French Catholic economist Claudio Jannet in 1878. Yet, only at the end of the century did Maffeo Pantaleoni (1889) proudly reclaim homo œconomicus as a building block of pure economics. In reaction to the evolutionary hedonism of Pantaleoni, Vilfredo Pareto then cleansed the concept of homo œconomicus and realized the Millian project of an abstract science based on an economic agent.

Date: 2022-04-09
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-evo, nep-his and nep-hpe
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DOI: 10.31219/

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