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Possessive IndividualismA Crisis of Capitalism$
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Daniel W. Bromley

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780190062842

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190062842.001.0001

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Escaping Possessive Individualism

Escaping Possessive Individualism

(p.171) 6 Escaping Possessive Individualism
Possessive Individualism

Daniel W. Bromley

Oxford University Press

Contemporary economics stands implicated in the triumph of possessive individualism. In viewing the individual as nothing but a utility-maximizing consumer, economic theory offers apologetics for the self-interested tendencies that imperil personhood. Managerial capitalism reifies the acquisitive urges embedded in contemporary economics. As the defects of managerial capitalism become apparent, escape seems impossible. This mental barrier persists because economics is not an evolutionary science. An economy is always in the process of becoming, and yet economic theory denies this “becoming” to consumers whose tastes and preferences are assumed to be unchanging—and none of our business. The escape requires an evolutionary economics that recognizes the individual as constantly engaged in a process of experiencing life and necessarily adapting to it. In that dynamic process, individuals are also crafting their own future. An evolutionary economics can help light the way as societies seek escape from the grip of possessive individualism.

Keywords:   evolutionary economics, Dewey’s Arc, Thorstein Veblen, institutional change, artificial selection, abduction, diagnosis, failed states, collective action

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