December, 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

Contact us
To speak with a scholar or learn more on this topic, visit our contact page.

Chapter Abstract: 

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. The authors attempt to recapture the doux-commerce thesis and its relevance for contemporary debates over commerce and culture.

Book Description: 

Since the end of the Cold War, the human face of economics has gained renewed visibility and generated new conversations among economists and other social theorists. The monistic, mechanical "economic systems" that characterized the capitalism-vs.-socialism debates of the mid-20th century have given way to pluralistic ecologies of economic provisioning in which complexly constituted agents cooperate via heterogeneous forms of production and exchange. Through the lenses of multiple disciplines, this book examines how this pluralistic turn in economic thinking bears upon the venerable social-theoretic division of cooperative activity into separate spheres of impersonal Gesellschaft (commerce) and ethically thick Gemeinschaft (community).
 
Drawing resources from diverse disciplinary and philosophical traditions, these essays offer fresh, critical appraisals of the Gemeinschaft/Gesellschaft segregation of face-to-face community from impersonal commerce. Some authors issue urgent calls to transcend this dualism while others propose to recast it in more nuanced ways or affirm the importance of treating impersonal and personal cooperation as ethically, epistemically, and economically separate worlds. Yet even in their disagreements, our contributors paint the process of voluntary cooperation – the space commerce and community – with uncommon color and nuance by traversing the boundaries that once separated the thin sociality of economics (as science of commerce) from the thick sociality of sociology and anthropology (as sciences of community).
 
This book facilitates critical exchange among economists, philosophers, sociologists, anthropologists, and other social theorists by exploring the overlapping notions of cooperation, rationality, identity, reciprocity, trust, and exchange that emerge from multiple analytic traditions within and across their respective disciplines.

Since the end of the Cold War, the human face of economics has gained renewed visibility and generated new conversations among economists and other social theorists. The monistic, mechanical "economic systems" that characterized the capitalism-vs.-socialism debates of the mid-20th century have given way to pluralistic ecologies of economic provisioning in which complexly constituted agents cooperate via heterogeneous forms of production and exchange. Through the lenses of multiple disciplines, this book examines how this pluralistic turn in economic thinking bears upon the venerable social-theoretic division of cooperative activity into separate spheres of impersonal Gesellschaft (commerce) and ethically thick Gemeinschaft (community).

Drawing resources from diverse disciplinary and philosophical traditions, these essays offer fresh, critical appraisals of the Gemeinschaft/Gesellschaft segregation of face-to-face community from impersonal commerce. Some authors issue urgent calls to transcend this dualism while others propose to recast it in more nuanced ways or affirm the importance of treating impersonal and personal cooperation as ethically, epistemically, and economically separate worlds. Yet even in their disagreements, our contributors paint the process of voluntary cooperation – the space commerce and community – with uncommon color and nuance by traversing the boundaries that once separated the thin sociality of economics (as science of commerce) from the thick sociality of sociology and anthropology (as sciences of community).

This book facilitates critical exchange among economists, philosophers, sociologists, anthropologists, and other social theorists by exploring the overlapping notions of cooperation, rationality, identity, reciprocity, trust, and exchange that emerge from multiple analytic traditions within and across their respective disciplines.

Pre-Order the book on Amazon.com or Routledge.com.