Erasing the Invisible Hand: Essays on an Elusive and Misused Concept in Economics

Erasing the Invisible Hand: Essays on an Elusive and Misused Concept in Economics

By: Warren J. Samuels (author), Marianne F. Johnson (assistant), William H. Perry (assistant)Hardback

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This book examines the use, principally in economics, of the concept of the invisible hand, centering on Adam Smith. It interprets the concept as ideology, knowledge, and a linguistic phenomenon. It shows how the principal Chicago School interpretation misperceives and distorts what Smith believed on the economic role of government. The essays further show how Smith was silent as to his intended meaning, using the term to set minds at rest; how the claim that the invisible hand is the foundational concept of economics is repudiated by numerous leading economic theorists; that several dozen identities given the invisible hand renders the term ambiguous and inconclusive; that no such thing as an invisible hand exists; and that calling something an invisible hand adds nothing to knowledge. Finally, the essays show that the leading doctrines purporting to claim an invisible hand for the case for capitalism cannot invoke the term but that other nonnormative invisible hand processes are still useful tools.

About Author

Warren J. Samuels is Professor Emeritus of Economics at Michigan State University, where he taught from 1968 to 1998. He previously served on the faculties of the University of Missouri, Georgia State University, and the University of Miami. One of the most prolific historians of economic thought, with cognate interests in the philosophy of economics, public finance, and law and economics, he has been president of the History of Economics Society and the Association for Social Economics. Professor Samuels was awarded the Kondratieff Medal by the Kondratieff Foundation of Moscow. He is the author of more than ten books and the editor of several dozen titles, as well as more than seventy volumes in the series Research in the History of Economic Thought and Methodology and Recent Economic Thought, as well as for the Journal of Economic Issues. He received his PhD from the University of Wisconsin. Marianne F. Johnson is Professor of Economics at the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh. She is co-editor of the series Research in the History of Economic Thought and Methodology and has co-edited two multi-volume projects on early American economic thought. William H. Perry is a professional lexicographer with more than thirty years experience in constructing and searching large evidentiary and documentary research databases for special projects. For this work, Mr Perry constructed a database containing, in machine-readable format, all significant philosophical, religious, scientific, political, and economic primary and secondary sources from the beginnings of Western and Middle Eastern civilization until the end of the nineteenth century, searchable by concept.


Preface; 1. Adam Smith's invisible hand and the Nobel prize in economic sciences; 2. The political economy of Adam Smith; 3. On the identities and functions attributed to the invisible hand; 4. Adam Smith's History of Astronomy argument: how broadly does it apply? And where do propositions which 'sooth the imagination' come from?; 5. Conceptual and substantive issues and problems; 6. The invisible hand in an uncertain world with an uncertain language; 7. The invisible hand as knowledge; 8. The invisible hand and the economic role of government; 9. The survival requirement of Pareto optimality; 10. Conclusions and further insights.

Product Details

  • ISBN13: 9780521517256
  • Format: Hardback
  • Number Of Pages: 358
  • ID: 9780521517256
  • weight: 700
  • ISBN10: 0521517257

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