Fifteen years after the Global Financial Crisis: Recessions and Business Cycles in the History of Economic Thought

The Worldly Economics of Bernard Mandeville

Prendergast Renee, Queen's University Belfast

ABSTRACT The Worldly Economics of Bernard Mandeville In the introduction to his scholarly edition of The Fable of the Bees, F. B Kaye examined the influence of Mandeville’s work in the fields of literature, ethics and economics. Kaye concluded that it was in the fields of ethics and economics that its influence was most important and highlighted Mandeville’s contributions on the division of labour; on the defence of luxury; and on laissez-faire philosophy. Despite Kaye’s belief in the importance of Mandeville’s contribution for the development of economic thought, this aspect of his work has not received a great deal of attention. Even F.W. Hayek, who chose Mandeville as the subject of his Mastermind Lecture at the British Academy , made it clear that his claims on behalf of Mandeville were based, not on his economics, but on the twin ideas of evolution and of the spontaneous formation of order. The purpose of the present article is to review Mandeville’s contribution to economic thought. The topics considered are: laissez-faire; institutionalism, self-love and self-liking; the ubiquity of trade-offs; division of labour; theory of progress; consequentialism; the paradox of thrift; the question of methodological individualism; and the role of education. Finally, his influence on the founders of political economy is briefly touched on.

Area: Eshet Conference

Keywords: Mandeville, econoic thought, contribution

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