Theorizing About Human Capacity: A View from the Nineteenth Century

  • Sandra J. Peart
  • David M. Levy
Part of the Jepson Studies in Leadership book series (JSL)


Political economy from Adam Smith through John Stuart Mill presupposed a race-blind account of human nature. As such, it maintained that left to their devices, ordinary people would find the best paths to attain happiness. In the second half of the nineteenth century, the historian Thomas Carlyle, joined by anthropologists and biologists, attacked and overthrew this view. In this chapter, Sandra J. Peart and David M. Levy bring together their previous work by focusing on the economic writings of W. R. Greg. His views on Irish inferiority, central to his argument against Mill’s abstract human, was cited by Charles Darwin as a consequence of the “failure” of natural selection in humans. Greg proposed eugenic policies to remedy this failure.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sandra J. Peart
    • 1
  • David M. Levy
    • 2
  1. 1.University of RichmondRichmondUSA
  2. 2.George Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA

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