Scientific article
Open access

The virtual reality of the invisible hand

ContributorsTieffenbach, Emma
Published inSocial Science Information, vol. 55, no. 1, p. 115-134
Publication date2016

Self-centred based explanations such as invisible-hand accounts look like armchair constructions with no relevance to the real world. Whether and how they nonetheless provide an insight into social reality is a puzzling matter. Philip Pettit's idea of self- interest virtually bearing on choices offers the prospect of a solution. In order to assess the latter we first distinguish between three variants of invisible-hand explanations, namely: a normative, an historical and a theoretical one. We then show that, while the model of virtual self-interest is a helpful gloss on each variant, it may not convincingly succeed, pace Pettit, in reconciling the economic mind with the common mind.

  • Carl Menger
  • Invisible-hand explanation
  • Philip Pettit
  • Resilience
  • Self-interest
Research group
Citation (ISO format)
TIEFFENBACH, Emma. The virtual reality of the invisible hand. In: Social Science Information, 2016, vol. 55, n° 1, p. 115–134. doi: 10.1177/0539018415608966
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Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal0539-0184

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