From theory to reality: how liberalism tends to materialize its assumption of universal egoism of man[Essay] by Yann Auger


The author was part of the “Alternative Management” third year program in HEC in 2008/2009

Noticing that men are unable to agree on a mutual conception of morale and life, liberalism advocates for a society which does not lean on moral conceptions, that is to say an amoral society. Based on individual free determination, this system relegates morale in the private sphere. Managing society according to this principle leads to rely on the impersonal mechanisms of abstract law and free market. Markets should orientate private interests toward common interest thanks to the “invisible hand” analyzed by Adam Smith and help to pacify society (Montesquieu). To work on a large scale, such a society needs people to accept to pursue their own interests and to free themselves from what prevents them to act rationally: their behaviours should be utilitarist. But utilitarist maximization is only a facet of human behaviour, as authors such as Marcel Mauss and George Orwell show: some behaviours can be disinterested without being charity though. Those behaviours go against the homo oeconomicus utilitarist fiction, the modern figure of utilitarism which is raised as the norm by the system. They are jeopardized by the extension of liberalism. Behind the repeating claims “for mentalities to change” (the “necessary” rehabilitation of profit is a good example), stands out an essential struggle for our future: the attempt to merchandize everything through free market economy enhances rational selfishness. Thus, liberalism leads to deny a fundamental part of humanity: the spirit of gift, such as analyzed by Marcel Mauss. How to get over it? By education in particular and a come back to simple values such as the “common decency” described by George Orwell.

Quote article  Yann Auger, « From theory to reality: how liberalism tends to materialize its assumption of universal egoism of man », 02 august 2009, Alternative Management Observatory (AMO), [Essay]

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