Economics and Human Natures

27 - 31 March 2023

Venue: Lorentz Center@Snellius

If you are invited or already registered for this workshop, you have received login details by email.

Homo Economicus is a tenacious creature assuming many forms. Originally conceived by John Stuart Mill as a model of human agency and as a theoretical abstraction, Homo Economicus has come to be a personification of rational choice theory, the protagonist of mainstream economics, a modeling tool, an “as if-notion”, a taken for granted folk anthropology, and a religious myth. In some disciplines Homo Economicus functions as a purely “formal” or methodological assumption; in others, he represents a substantive anthropology. Adherents of the assumptions of rational choice theory rarely use the name of Homo Economicus; its detractors always use the name in a pejorative sense. Homo Economicus has been dethroned, denounced as a “fiction”, called a “rational fool”, a “sociopath” and a “dead horse”—and declared alive again. Who is this Homo Economicus, the protagonist of economic agency? And how is it possible that the rich variety of disciplines that all purport to engage with economic agency have such diverging anthropologies at their basis? How do these anthropologies relate to each other? To what extent are they all fragments of one notional whole?

The figure of Homo Economicus demonstrates how fragmented economic disciplines can be. But it also presents us with an ideal academic arena for a truly interdisciplinary dialogue. In this generative workshop participants from a variety of academic economic disciplines will engage with Homo Economicus as an anthropology, as an implicit or explicit theory or sets of assumptions on human nature, of selfhood and subjectivity. We will bring together researchers representing different relevant disciplines: business economics, behavioral economics, cultural economics, development economics, economic anthropology, economic history, economic theory, environmental economics, feminist economics, history of economics, political economy, philosophy of economics, social anthropology. The goal of the workshop is to confront the diverging anthropologies that are at the core of our different disciplines, to bring out each discipline’s implicit and hidden concepts, preconceptions and values, to explore the tensions and contradictions between these different disciplinary anthropologies, but also develop possibilities for consilience.



Follow us on:

Niels Bohrweg 1 & 2

2333 CA Leiden

The Netherlands

+31 71 527 5400