While the idea of individualism is nice, it is also a ploy to distract us from the fact that we are all interdependent outside of markets: procreation, child rearing, care of the sick and aged, friendships, defense, management of the commons and a host of other things. Within markets we are also interdependent: property is a social construct. Individuals comprise, reside in and utilize institutions.
- Philosophical Individualism (10 links)
- Individualism is merely one viewpoint in an enormous hierarchy of viewpoints ranging from Planck length to the universe. Individualism as a tenet of a philosophy transforms that philosophy into a Procrustean bed that cannot model the real world well, because the real world is not based on individuals.
- Institutions (21 links)
- Libertarians cannot see the forest for the trees. By focussing on individuals, they ignore the fact that individuals comprise, reside in and utilize institutions. Institutions such as property, law, governance, capitalism, marriage, etc. Libertarians pretend that rights are "natural" when in reality they come from institutions. See also Institutional Economics.
- Covid-19 and the End of Individualism [More...]
- "Aristotle was right. Humans have never been atomized individuals, but rather social beings whose every decision affects other people. And now the Covid-19 pandemic is driving home this fundamental point: each of us is morally responsible for the infection risks we pose to others through our own behavior."
- Debt and the Decay of the Myth of Liberal Individualism [More...]
- We are not, in any way, “men who owe no obligation to one another”. Our entire social system is founded on obligation and interconnectedness. This was likely true even in Smith’s time, but his genius was to have hidden it from view and in doing so to construct the founding myth of liberal individualism as it exists in modern times.
- Greed is dead: the recognition that we need to rely on each other rather than ourselves. [More...]
- Economics is a human science and will need to fuse into the other human sciences: biology, psychology and anthropology will be the profession’s lodestars and bedfellows. Redeployed to understand Social Man, the methodology of economics will make a massive contribution to the public policies needed to heal our societies from the ills inflicted by Economic Man.
- Methodological Individualism (propaganda) (12 links)
- Individuals always exist within and are entwined with societies. Actually adhering to methodological individualism would mean ignoring families, households, corporations, governments and all other social groups in analysis. It is obviously stupid to ignore these sorts of emergent properties. Methodological individualism also blinkers us to social interactions. A greedy reductionist (in the words of Daniel Dennett) attempt to oppose "collectivist" theories with invalid models of atomistic individuals.
- Must Macroeconomic Theories Have Microfoundations? [More...]
- Cosma Shalizi explains at length why the answer is "not necessarily". Undermines arguments for methodological individualism of Austrian Economics.
We are not, in any way, “men who owe no obligation to one another”. Our entire social system is founded on obligation and interconnectedness. This was likely true even in Smith’s time, but his genius was to have hidden it from view and in doing so to construct the founding myth of liberal individualism as it exists in modern times.
Philip Pilkington, "Debt and the Decay of the Myth of Liberal Individualism"
You call it cancer, I call it freedom loving cells, throwing off the shackles of collectivism and trying to reach their full potential of growth. If every cell in the body just started looking out for itself and its offspring, the outcome for the whole body could only be the best one imaginable.
WKorsakow (Reddit pseudonym), "How do I bootstrap myself out of cancer?"
[...] the irreducible atom of economic life consists of the "individual," whose activities we put under the microscope -- not the macroscope. What is this individual presumed to be constantly doing? Maximizing utility. I will avoid the easy task of exposing the vacuity of the words "maximizing utility." The phrase is consistent with all possible observed behavior and refutable by none. I ask instead that we watch the individual perform his allotted task and inquire why he is engaged in this balancing act. Almost invariably, he is deciding how to spend his income among the various options before him. And what is so ideological about that? It is the unnoticed intrusion of the innocent word: income. For you cannot have an income unless it comes from someone else. Hence the individual is an absurd -- dare I say "ideological" -- representation of the irreducible atom of economic life. Is there not something profoundly suspicious about taking a monadic individual, not the societal dyad, as the representative agent for capitalism?
Robert Heilbroner, "The Embarrassment of Economics"