Criticisms of Neoclassical Economics - Assumptions of Rationality

Assumptions of Rationality

The assumption that individuals act rationally may be viewed as ignoring important aspects of human behavior. Many see the "economic man" as being quite different from real people. Many economists, even contemporaries, have criticized this model of economic man. Thorstein Veblen put it most sardonically. Neoclassical economics assumes a person to be,

"a lightning calculator of pleasures and pains, who oscillates like a homogeneous globule of desire of happiness under the impulse of stimuli that shift about the area, but leave him intact."

Large corporations might perhaps come closer to the neoclassical ideal of profit maximization, but this is not necessarily viewed as desirable if this comes at the expense of neglect of wider social issues. The response to this is that neoclassical economics is descriptive and not normative. It addresses such problems with concepts of private versus social utility.

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