Article ID: CBB892524347

Bernard Mandeville as Moralist and Materialist (2015)


Today remembered primarily as an eighteenth-century predecessor of laissez-faire economics, Bernard Mandeville's notorious Fable of the Bees marks the intersection of two modes of thought. On the one hand, Mandeville was a ‘moralist’ heir to the French Augustinianism of the previous century, viewing sociability as a mere mask for vanity and pride. On the other, he was a ‘materialist’ forerunner of economics, concerned to demonstrate the universality of human appetites for corporeal pleasures. The tension between these two modes of thought results in ambivalences and contradictions—concerning the relative power of norms and interests, the relationship between motives and behaviours, and the historical variability of human cultures—that run throughout the Fable. Both traditions, with their attendant difficulties, have a long afterlife in the later history of the social sciences; understanding their origins in Mandeville's thought can help us get a firmer grip on problems that still trouble us today.

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Authors & Contributors
Hundert, E. J.
Denis, Andy
Poovey, Mary
Riskin, Jessica G.
Schabas, Margaret L.
De Marchi, Neil
Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences
History of European Ideas
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
History of Political Economy
Science in Context
William and Mary Quarterly
Princeton University Press
Duke University Press
Palgrave Macmillan
Columbia University
New York University
Political economy
Science and society
Social sciences
Moral philosophy
Smith, Adam
Mandeville, Bernard de
Alchian, Armen Albert
Molinari, Gustave de
Hutcheson, Francls
La Mettrie, Julien Offray de
Great Britain
United States
Atlantic world
Atlantic Ocean
18th century
19th century
17th century
20th century
20th century, early
American Sociological Association

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