May 16, 2014

The Theory of Social Cooperation Historically and Robustly Contemplated

  • Peter J. Boettke

    Director, F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics
  • Daniel J. Smith

    Associate Professor of Economics, Troy University
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Find the working paper at SSRN.com.

Early efforts to tame man’s passions going back to antiquity focused on the repression of those passions. As the political and social sciences emerged, the argumentative focus shifted from repressing to harnessing man's passions. This is what produced the discovery of the "invisible hand" within the market society. While the "invisible hand" argument was initially focused on the ability of commerce to generate cooperation and ameliorate conflict among strangers, it gradually came to be exclusively associated with a sort of ruthless efficiency and the obtainment of optimality conditions. We attempt to recapture the doux-commerce thesis and its relevance for contemporary debates over commerce and culture.