New in paperback. Hardcover was published in 2001. Levy examines the positions of classical economics and its nineteenth-century Victorian literary critics, as seen through the specific prism of the antislavery debate.
It is widely asserted that the Victorian sages attacked classical economics from a humanistic or egalitarian perspective, calling it "the dismal science," and that their attack is relevant to modern discussions of market society. David M. Levy here demonstrates that these assertions are simply false: political economy became "dismal" because Carlyle, Ruskin, and Dickens were horrified at the idea that systems of slavery were being replaced by systems in which individuals were allowed to choose their own paths in life. At a minimum, they argued, "we" white people ought to be directing the lives of "them," people of color.
Economists of the time argued, on the other hand, that people of color were to be protected by the rule of law--hence the moniker "the dismal science."
A startling image from 1893, which is reproduced in full color on this book's jacket, shows Ruskin killing someone who appears to be nonwhite. A close look reveals that the victim is reading "The Dismal Science."
Levy discusses this image at length and also includes in his text weblinks to Carlyle's "Occasional Discourse on the Negro Question" and to Mill's response, demonstrating that these are central documents in British classical economics. He explains Adam Smith's egalitarian foundations, contrasting Smith's approach to the hierarchical alternative proposed by Carlyle. Levy also examines various visual representations of this debate and provides an illuminating discussion of Smith's "katallactics," the science of exchange, comparing it with the foundations of modern neoclassical economics.
"How the Dismal Science Got Its Name" also introduces the notion of "rational choice scholarship" to explain how attacks on market economics from a context in which racial slavery was idealized have been interpreted as attacks on market economics from a humanistic or egalitarian context. Thus it will greatly appeal to economists, political scientists, philosophers, students of Victorian literature, and historians.
David M. Levy is Associate Professor of Economics and Research Associate, Center for Study of Public Choice, George Mason University.
Table of Contents
Preface: Answering the Obvious Question xiii
Part 1. Two Sciences in Collision: The Dismal
and the Gay
Poets Come, Bringing Death to Friends of the 3 (26)
Ecce Homo: Symbols Make the Man 29 (12)
Beginning with an Exchange or with a Command? 41 (17)
A Rational Choice Approach to Scholarship 58 (23)
Part 2. Market Order or Hierarchy?
Debating Racial Quackery 81 (33)
Economic Texts as Apocrypha 114 (44)
Hard Times and the Moral Equivalence of 158 (43)
Markets and Slavery
Part 3: The Katallactic Moment
Exchange between Actor and Spectator 201 (13)
The Partial Spectator in the Wealth of 214 (29)
Nations: A Robust Utilitarianism
Katallactic Rationality: Language, 243 (16)
Approbation, and Exchange
Adam Smith's Rational Choice Linguistics 259 (9)
Bishop Berkeley Exorcises the Infinite 268 (21)
Bibliography 289 (20)