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date: 17 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The assumptions about the human actors at the base of positive organizational scholarship (POS) seem diametrically opposed to the view of human actors found in current economic theory. In this chapter, I review the received view of economic man, Homo economicus. I then look back at economic history and show that the narrow view of H. economicus currently in vogue is of recent origin; economists such as Adam Smith, Alfred Marshall, and John Maynard Keynes held much more expansive views of human motivations, actions, and outcomes. I also investigate the findings of a new field, behavioral economics, to show that H. economicus, although a recent construction, appears more as a cognitive simplification than an accurate description of human behavior. I conclude that the assumptions of economic man are in fact not inconsistent with ones needed to generate the positive behaviors studied in POS and pose a set of questions for further study to advance the field.

Keywords: Economics, economic history, morality, human behavior

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