The Economy of Esteem: An Essay on Civil and Political Society

Paperback | April 7, 2006

byGeoffrey Brennan, Philip Pettit

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However much people want esteem, it is an untradable commodity-- there is no way that you can buy the good opinion of another or sell to others your good opinion of them. And yet esteem is allocated in society according to systematic determinants: people's performance, publicity, andpresentation relative to others will help to fix how much esteem they enjoy and how much disesteem they avoid. In turn, rational individuals are bound to compete with one another, however tacitly, in the attempt to increase their chances of winning esteem and avoiding disesteem. And thiscompetition shapes the environments in which they each pursue esteem, setting relevant comparators and benchmarks, and determining the cost that a person must bear for obtaining a given level of esteem. Hidden in the multifarious interactions and exchanges of social life, then, there is a quiet force at work -- a force as silent and powerful as gravity -- which molds the basic form of people's relationships and associations. This force was more or less routinely invoked in the writings of classicaltheorists like Aristotle and Plato, Locke and Montesquieu, Mandeville and Hume and Madison. Although Adam Smith himself gave it great credence, however, the rise of economics proper coincided with a sudden decline in the attention devoted to the economy of esteem. What had been a topic of compellinginterest for earlier authors fell into relative neglect throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This book is designed to reverse the trend. It begins by outlining the psychology of esteem and the way the working of that psychology can give rise to an economy. It then shows how a variety of social patterns that are otherwise anomalous come to make a lot of sense within an economics of esteem.And it looks, finally, at the ways in which the economy of esteem may be reshaped to improve overall social outcomes. While making connections with older patterns of social theorising, it offers a novel orientation for contemporary thought about how society works and how it may be made to work. Itputs the economy of esteem firmly on the agenda of economics and social science and of moral and political theory.

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However much people want esteem, it is an untradable commodity-- there is no way that you can buy the good opinion of another or sell to others your good opinion of them. And yet esteem is allocated in society according to systematic determinants: people's performance, publicity, andpresentation relative to others will help to fix how ...

Geoffrey Brennan trained originally as a public economist, but increasingly works in rational actor political theory. He was at the Australian National University for ten years, before he took up a Professorship in the Public Choice Center at Virgina Tech. In 1983, he returned to the ANU to become head of the Economics Department and...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:352 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.8 inPublished:April 7, 2006Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199289816

ISBN - 13:9780199289813

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Rediscovering the Economy of EsteemPart I: Towards an Economics of Esteem1. The Nature and Attraction of Esteem2. The Demand for Esteem3. The Supply of Esteem4. The Economy of EsteemPart II: Within the Economics of Esteem5. A Simple Equilibrium in Performance6. A More Complex Equilibrium in Performance7. Multiple Equilibria and Bootstrapping Performance8. Publicity and Individual Responses9. Publicity and Accepted Standards10. Seeking and Shunning Publicity11. Voluntary Association12. Involuntary AssociationPart III: Exploiting the Economics of Esteem13. The Intangible Hand in Profile14. The Intangible Hand in Practice15. Mobilising the Intangible Hand

Editorial Reviews

`An example of how economists are taking an interdisciplinary approach to their research and writing, which is helping make their work more accessible and relevant.... This is very far from the kind of economics so many of us suffered through in Econ 101.... The analytical rigor ofconventional economists needs to be combined with a rich understanding of the human context. Fortunately, that is what more and more economists, including the authors ... are doing.'Strategy + Business