Robert Heilbroner 's Seminal Synthesis Of Economic Thought Teachings From The Worldly Philosophy

Robert Heilbroner 's Seminal Synthesis Of Economic Thought Teachings From The Worldly Philosophy

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“Political Economy” or “economics” is a term that carries with it different meanings and assumptions depending on the historical, contextual, and ideological lens through which it is being considered. The following inquiry will attempt to consider and interpret the works of the pre-Adamite’s -- those who came before Adam Smith - the classical thinkers - Smith, Ricardo and Marx –, and the neoclassicals, who were a group of thinkers who thought to refine Smith’s thinking based on challenges unique to their own era. Much of the work of all these admirable thinkers concerns a notion first put forth by Aristotle (Heilbroner, 1996, 9), as outlined in Robert Heilbroner’s seminal synthesis of economic thought Teachings from the Worldly Philosophy [1996], concerning the notion of what economic activity should be deemed noble, “oeconomia,” or concerned with selfish materialistic gain, “chrematiske”. It should, hopefully, be shown that this is not only still an ongoing debate, but that there seems to be a human peculiarity leads economic thinkers to focus more on the latter, making pecuniary gain permissible, rather than the former, a complex moral and ethical subject.
Considering that Adam Smith is one of the main pillars of modern economic thought, it is important to consider first those thinkers that influenced the Scottish thinker: the pre-Adamites. Robert Heilbroner (1996, 11-13), in Teachings, drew upon the insights of Thomas Aquinas who had attempted to provide room for capital accumulation and economic activity beyond the “stringent” moral requirements of Aristotle. In what was known as “the commercial revolution,” an economic ideology known as “mercantilism” dominated the minds of the foremost economic thinkers. According to Heilb...


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...ld, elevate it above the labor needed to acquire it, but most commodities value is determined by the toil and trouble needed to get them. Ricardo (1953, 15-16) seems to uniformly reject the Aristotelian notion of labor having constant worth, allowing for the exchange of a set amount of goods for another as in the example of houses and shoes present in Nichomachean Ethics [350 B.C.]. Ricardo leaves room for the value of labor to fluctuate on the basis of the scarcity of the commodity, but, and this appears important, he allows for labor to dilute its own value via the use of the productive machinery necessitated in the division of labor introduced by Smith. This insight leaves room for labor to be exploited and immense profit to be made and will lead to the works of Karl Marx and his revolutionary critique of capitalism Capital: A Critique of Political Economy [1867].

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