Faculty Scholarship 1994 - Present

Why Economists Should Read Tocqueville

The authors are engaged in an ongoing critique of the individualist paradigm of social analysis. In previous PEA papers, they have argued that dominant soft versions of individualism in economics have evaded tough Hobbesian questions about the roles of violence, rule breaking and struggles over the rules of the game in determining the dynamics of market economies. This new paper offers a Tocquevillian critique of individualism. It presents Tocqueville's argument that a democratic society in which individualism flourishes will have great difficulty maintaining the vitality of its competitive markets and democratic institutions and develops some implications for economics of Tocqueville's argument.