Philosophy of Management

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 47–66 | Cite as

The Unreality Business - How Economics (and Management) Became Anti-philosophical

  • Matthias P. HühnEmail author


This paper argues that economics, over the past 200 years, has become steadily more anti-philosophical and that there are three stages in the development of economic thought. Adam Smith intended economics to be a descriptive social science, rooted in an understanding of the moral and psychological processes of an individual’s decision-making and its connection to society in general. Yet, immediately after Smith’s death, economists made a clean cut and invented a totally new discipline: they switched towards a physicalist understanding of human nature. Humans, like atoms, follow a natural law: they are driven by an emotion (defined as a non-emotion, rationality), namely selfishness. Thus economics became a ‘natural’ science. In the 20th century, the second reinterpretation removed all traces of humanity from the study of economics and declared economics to be a formal science like mathematics and logics. The actor in Phase 3 economics is homo economicus syntheticus, a postulate whose only connection to real humanity is the word homo. The paper asks what the results of this dramatic relocation are and why Phase 3 economics still claims descent from Smithian economics, despite the massive differences.


Economic theory Moral philosophy Philosophy of science Adam Smith 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.China Europe International Business SchoolShanghaiChina

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