The Evolution of the Economic Man. From Homo Oeconomicus to Homo Moralis
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University of Bialystok, Faculty of Economics and Management, Treasury Chair
Publication date: 2018-03-31
Submission date: 2017-06-30
Acceptance date: 2018-01-24
GNPJE 2018;293(1):33–57
This article traces the development of the concept of homo oeconomicus, a fundamental principle of mainstream economics. The concept is compared against alternative approaches proposed by representatives of other schools of thought such as heterodox economics, behavioural economics and neuroeconomics. Special attention is paid to the Resourceful, Evaluative, Maximising Man (REMM) model, which seems to be a missing link between homo oeconomicus and homo moralis. It is simultaneously assumed that the narrow interpretation of homo oeconomicus as a being solely guided by self-interest is oversimplified and that this kind of paradigm may be harmful to society in the real world. The article was written on the basis of a content analysis of literature. For the purposes of the research, both descriptive and interdisciplinary methods were employed. As a result of the conducted analysis, a conclusion was drawn that the explanation of economic behaviours requires a more holistic and dynamic approach. The incompleteness and inadequacy of the paradigm of homo oeconomicus were highlighted. It was noted that the rationality of the economic man results not only from concern for self-interest but also from his embeddedness in society and culture. The study showed that economic behaviour is context-dependent and additionally determined by morality derived from social and religious systems. In conclusion, it was emphasised that the economic man cannot be reduced to a machine concentrating on his own material well-being. The morality of an individual making choices in a world of scarcity is inevitably subject to assessment.