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Adam's Fallacy

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Table of Contents

Preface 1. Adam"s Vision The Division of Labor The Theory of Value Capital Accumulation The Invisible Hand and the State Smith's Theory of Money Adam's Fallacy Revisited 2. Gloomy Science Second Thoughts Malthus and Population The Context of Malthus's Essay Malthus's Postulates Malthusian Logic Population and Food since Malthus's Time Ricardo and the Limits to Growth Ricardo's Labor Theory of Value Accumulation and the Stationary State Ricardo's Views on Machinery The Political Economy of Poverty 3. The Severest Critic Historical Materialism The Commodity and the Theory of Value Capitalist Exploitation Accumulation and the Falling Rate of Profit Primitive Accumulation The Transition to Socialism Marx and Proletarian Revolution Marxist Theory and Social Change 4. On the Margins Adam's Fallacy Needs New Shoes Marginalism Where Do Prices Come From? Marginalism and Social Welfare Marginalism and Time Veblen and Conspicuous Consumption 5. Voices in the Air John Maynard Keynes World Capitalism in Keynes's Time Say's Law and Laissez-Faire Labor Markets and Unemployment Expectations and Money The Fate of Capitalism Complexity vs. Collectivism The Prophet of Technology 6. Grand Illusions Looking in the Mirror Two-Armed Economists Escaping Adam's Fallacy Face to Face with Adam's Curse Reading Further Appendix Demographic Equilibrium Theories of Money and Prices Ricardo's Theory of Rent and Accumulation Decomposition of the Value of Commodities The Working Day Index

Promotional Information

Duncan Foley has written a fair-minded and very well-written history of economic thinking organized by the theme announced in his title. He contends that economic thinking has been dominated by fallacious attempts to separate positive analysis from moral judgment. This leitmotif has enabled him to create a unified presentation, which will be very useful to the general reader. -- Kenneth Arrow, Stanford University This learned and lively book reconnects economics to the complexities and conflicts of politics and society, and powerfully reminds us that there are no fixed, necessary, or inevitable laws that govern markets. By tracing the history of economic thinking as a form of engagement with values and policies, it also thoughtfully beckons us to grasp together the twin challenges of scientific understanding and moral reasoning. -- Ira Katznelson, Columbia University Adam's Fallacy is a stimulating tour d'horizon of the ideas of the great economists. In clear, accessible prose, Duncan Foley, a noted theorist himself, describes what they wrote and what their work means today, providing an insightful and thought-provoking critique of economics. -- Stanley Engerman, University of Rochester

About the Author

Duncan K. Foley is Leo Model Professor at the New School for Social Research.


Consciously written as an alternative to Robert Heilbroner's classic The Worldly Philosophers, this book sets out to explore and critique the lives and ideas of the great economists. Both books begin with Adam Smith, though Foley discusses only eight of Heilbroner's 16 economists and gives less detail on each. Where Heilbroner celebrates the overlap between economics and other human activities, Foley criticizes "Adam's Fallacy," the artificial division between the economic sphere, in which pursuit of self-interest leads to social good, and the social sphere, in which good results from unselfish actions. Uncritical acceptance of the fallacy, which the author labels "economic theology," leads to the belief that short-term economic gain necessarily favors vague, long-term social gains. Unemployment and cultural destruction caused by free trade, for example, are ignored from a na?ve faith that unrestrained trade leads to a greater good for a greater number. Foley finds some brilliance and rigor in the works of all his subjects, while also accusing them of sloppy thinking unsupported by data, which has led to heartless, misguided policies. However, his specific criticisms are mild and technical. Readers who want an abridged version of Heilbroner will like this better than readers who want to understand the fundamental errors of economics. (Sept.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Foley gets deep into the analytical content of major schools of thought, ranking Adam's Fallacy up there with Heilbroner's classic. -- Robert Solow New York Review of Books 20061116 So what is 'Adam's Fallacy?'...It is the idea that the economic sphere of life constitutes a separate realm 'in which the pursuit of self-interest is guided by objective laws to a socially beneficent outcome'...Professor Foley's book is simultaneously an introduction to economic theory and a critique of it. It is his version of the classic introduction for the economically challenged by Robert L. Heilbroner, The Worldly Philosophers, now in its seventh edition. Adam's Fallacy concentrates more on the worldly philosophies rather than on the philosophers, on economic theory rather than on the characters and events that along with Mr. Heilbroner's masterly storytelling gave The Worldly Philosophers so much color and verve...By questioning economic theory's cordoning off of an economic spheres of life ruled by its own laws and expertise, Professor Foley is implicitly proposing limits to the secularization that is an underlying characteristic of modernity. Secularization has meant that in a cultural transformation, major areas of human activity set themselves up as quasi-autonomous, with their own standards, authorities, and guiding principles. -- Peter Steinfels New York Times 20061125 [A] passionate book, to be welcomed in a discipline notably devoid of passion. [Adam's Fallacy] can be read for pleasure and enlightenment by economists and non-economists alike. -- David Throsby Times Literary Supplement 20070323

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