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Darwin and the Body Politic: Schaffle, Veblen, and the Shift of Biological Metaphor in Economics

Sophus S. Reinert

The Other Canon Foundation and Tallinn University of Technology Working Papers in Technology Governance and Economic Dynamics from TUT Ragnar Nurkse Department of Innovation and Governance

Abstract: A long tradition of thought in Western political philosophy compares the body of man to the political body. This traditional cosmological frame of reference was, with the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species, overcome by the emergence of evolutionary social systems. Albert Schäffle [1831-1903] can fruitfully be considered the last major representative of the old trajectory of thought, and Thorstein Veblen [1853-1929] the first of the new. By comparing and contrasting their uses of biological metaphors and the places these occupied in their larger visions of society and the economy, the author explores some of the tensions generated in late nineteenth century political philosophy by the dramatic change in biological paradigm—in other words by Darwin’s first encounter with the body politic.

Pages: 18 pages
Date: 2006-05
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cbe, nep-evo, nep-his, nep-hpe and nep-pke
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