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Homo Politicus: Reflections on The Passions and the Interests

Research in the History of Economic Thought and Methodology

ISBN: 978-1-78560-962-6, eISBN: 978-1-78560-961-9

ISSN: 0743-4154

Publication date: 30 September 2016

Abstract

In The Passions and the Interests, Hirschman explored a movement in 18th century thought whose aim was to shape human motivations by establishing the prominence of interests, particularly material interests, in order to diminish the negative effects of the passions in political life. If the pursuit of gain could replace the pursuit of glory, for example, commercial transactions might replace bloody wars as a means of resolving conflict. Hirschman finds this claim overly optimistic. And, in his view, in making their case, these thinkers oversimplified and impoverished our understanding of human psychology by reducing all motivation to interest – a problem that persists in contemporary social science. After exploring Hirschman’s account of 18th century thinkers, this paper attempts a discussion of a richer psychology identifying the variety of passions that motivate action toward different political goals; viz. status, justice, solidarity, and security. These political passions – including ambition, compassion, righteous indignation, loyalty, and fear – can have positive as well as negative political consequences.

Keywords

Citation

Grant, R.W. (2016), "Homo Politicus: Reflections on The Passions and the Interests ", Research in the History of Economic Thought and Methodology (Research in the History of Economic Thought and Methodology, Vol. 34B), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 123-137. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0743-41542016000034B009

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016 Emerald Group Publishing Limited