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Individuals and Identity in Economics


  • 2 tables
  • Page extent: 270 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.36 kg


 (ISBN-13: 9780521173537)

This book examines the different conceptions of the individual that have emerged in recent new approaches in economics, including behavioral economics, experimental economics, social preferences approaches, game theory, neuroeconomics, evolutionary and complexity economics, and the capability approach. These conceptions are classified according to whether they seek to revise the traditional atomist individual conception, put new emphasis on interaction and relations between individuals, account for individuals as evolving and self-organizing, and explain individuals in terms of capabilities. The method of analysis uses two identity criteria for distinguishing and re-identifying individuals to determine whether these different individual conceptions successfully identify individuals. Successful individual conceptions account for sub-personal and supra-personal bounds on single individual explanations. The former concerns the fragmentation of individuals into multiple selves; the latter concerns the dissolution of individuals into the social. The book develops an understanding of bounded individuality, seen as central to the defense of human rights.

• Systematically addresses recent new approaches in economics including behavioral economics • One of the few recent titles to concentrate on the identity of the individual in economics • Develops a conception of the individual for the capability approach


1. Introduction: the individual in economics; Part I. Atomism Revised: 2. Psychology's challenge to economics: rationality and the individual; 3. Multiple selves and self-control: contextualizing individuality; 4. Social identity and social preferences in the utility function; Part II. Interaction: 5. The individual in game theory: from fixed points to experiments; 6. Multiple selves in interaction: teams and neuroscience; 7. Evolutionary conceptions of the individual: identity through change; Part III. Socially Embedded Individuals: 8. Evolution and capabilities: human heterogeneity; 9. The identity of individuals and the economics of identity; 10. Economic policy, democracy, and justice.


'This book provides a breathtaking survey of the recent invasion of economic psychology into the very heartland of economics, concerned as it is - and to some extent always has been - with the conception of individuals and their identity in economic life. The author has written before on individuality in economics but never as comprehensively and sure-footedly as in this new book.' Mark Blaug, University of London and University of Buckingham

'A wonderful follow-up to John Davis's previous book on the individual in economics. Few economists think as deeply or as creatively about the building blocks of economic theory as does John.' David Colander, Middlebury College

'Many dilemmas in economic modeling arise only because we treat agent identities as fixed outside of theory. As John Davis appreciates, this is in fact another aspect of the world about which economists must make modeling choices. In this book he gives us the first comprehensive survey of the options developed so far, and of their far-reaching consequences.' Don Ross, University of Cape Town

'Davis's excellent account of changing ideas of the individual in recent economics is rigorous and compelling. Most importantly, however, it shows why transforming our understanding of the individual is necessary in order to defend democracy and human rights.' Robert Urquhart, University of Denver

'… an astute and painstaking contribution to a neglected part of the foundations of economic theory that looks esoteric on the surface but is in fact of pervasive practical importance.' Journal of Economic Methodology

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