Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Girard Again & Free Markets

Hayek write that in a free market the individual is recognized as “the ultimate judge of his ends,” and this means that cooperative actions among individuals arise from “coincidence of individual ends.” Social ends are “merely identical ends of many individuals – or ends to the achievement of which individuals are willing to contribute in return for the assistance they receive in the satisfaction of their own desires.”

This claim assumes, obviously enough, that we have desires that can be identified as “our own.” If Girard is right about the mimetic nature of desire, however, then desire is social. And if that’s true, then we can’t simply characterize social ends as a collection of individual ends, and we cannot characterize the individual’s contribution to social ends simply in terms of “satisfaction of [one's] own desire.” Hayek assumes, more fundamentally, that the individual is the basic unit of analysis, but if Girard is right, then the individual is always already infused with the social.

I’m sure there are economists out there working out the economic implications of Girardian anthropology.


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