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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Warren Samuels on the "Invisible Hand"

Gavin Kennedy has been trying to extinguish the invisible hand myth for some time now:

Warren Samuels on the "Invisible Hand," Adam Smith's Lost Legacy: More good news on Warren Samuels new book in the publisher’s blurb, posted in the Coordinating Problem Blog (here):

The post, “Warren Samuels (1933-2011)”, is by Peter Boettke of George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, and the academic home of my friendly sparing partner on the “invisible hand”, Daniel Klein.

Regular readers will see immediately why I am so excited to read an outline of its main theme and one of its concluding assertions: that ‘no such thing as an invisible hand exists’. Yes, it was a metaphor.

This conclusion is from a most highly respected source in the history of economic thought.

The scholarly profession will sit up and note what Warren Samuels says, even if it has not responded positively yet to the six-year campaign of Lost Legacy to alert it to the errors of the modern myths about Adam Smith’s use of the invisible hand metaphor.

“Erasing the Invisible Hand” (Cambridge, 2011) is described by the publisher as follows:

This book examines the use, principally in economics, of the concept of the invisible hand, centering on Adam Smith. It interprets the concept as ideology, knowledge and a linguistic phenomenon. It shows how the principal Chicago School interpretation misperceives and distorts what Smith believed on the economic role of government. The essays further show how Smith was silent as to his intended meaning, using the term to set minds at rest; how the claim that the invisible hand is the foundational concept of economics is repudiated by numerous leading economic theorists; that several dozen identities given the invisible hand renders the term ambiguous and inconclusive; that no such thing as an invisible hand exists; and that calling something an invisible hand adds nothing to knowledge. Finally, the essays show that the leading doctrines purporting to claim an invisible hand for the case for capitalism cannot invoke the term but that other non-normative invisible hand processes are still useful tools.”

Review copies are circulating - but none has come this way.

    Posted by on Thursday, August 25, 2011 at 01:08 AM in Economics, History of Thought | Permalink  Comments (8)


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