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Article
Economists on Darwin's theory of human nature
European Journal of the History of Economic Thought (2007)
  • Alain Marciano
Abstract
The purpose of this article is to analyse the way economists interested in social and economic evolution cite, mention or refer to Darwin. We focus on the attitude of economists towards Darwin's theory of social evolution - an issue he considered as central to his theory. We show that economists refer to and mention Darwin as a biologist and neglect or ignore his theory of social and cultural evolution. Three types of reference are identified: first, economists refer to Darwin from the social Darwinist perspective of the use of biological concepts in social sciences. Darwin's biological theories are then equated with those of Spencer. Second, economists view Darwin as having borrowed concepts from classical political economists, Malthus and Smith. Darwin is then mentioned to emphasize the existence of economic theories of social evolution. From these two perspectives, Darwin's theory of social evolution remains hidden behind analyses developed by Spencer, Malthus or Smith. Third, economists acknowledge the existence of Darwin's general (biological and social) theory of evolution. Darwin eventually stands for himself.
Publication Date
2007
Citation Information
Alain Marciano. "Economists on Darwin's theory of human nature" European Journal of the History of Economic Thought Vol. 14 Iss. 4 (2007)
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/alain_marciano/11/