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Contemporary Theories of Political Economy

He proceeds thus in virtue of his taxonomic approach to the characterisation of an essence which he inherits from his biology: a sentence characterising an essence of an entity of a particular kind standard has the form of a noun phrase indicating a genus modified by an adjectival phrase that expresses the differentiae, the properties that are peculiar to that kind. (Fukuyama, 82-113)
The chrematistic art of acquisition, because it involves acquisition of objects not for their "proper and peculiar" properties, is, for Aristotle, "unnatural" for humans, and hence to be held in check. It needs to be held in check, however, because it is the normal developmental outcome of exchange. The essential nature of market exchange is revealed for Aristotle in its developed "unnatural" form (Frank, 213-268). In this final state the dispositional properties of markets are exhibited. The most significant of these for Aristotle is the particular moral character it tends to produce: Aristotle's political theory is by and large concerned with the tendency of different social and political institutions to issue in different virtues and vices. The market, where its development is unchecked, tends to issue not in the virtues constitutive of a flourishing human life, but in the vice of pleonexia, the disposition to want more than is proper. (Marx & Fowkes, 347-574)
Distinctions and influences Aristotle's essentialism is a complex of claims that are logically independent of one another. One might accept his basic distinction between the essential and accidental properties of an object without accepting the further teleological specification of essences in terms of normal patterns of development. Indeed it is worth noting that the example of essentialist descriptions of copper I used in section A does not conform to the Aristotelian teleological model. Likewise one might accept essentialism in its basic form without accepting his particular taxonomic approach to the specification of essences. Again, it is possible to adopt an essentialist position in either its basic form or its teleological elaboration for entities in the natural world, but to reject it for the social world. (Fukuyama, 82-113)
One might accept essentialism about social institutions generally and markets in particular, but reject the teleological elaboration of essentialism that Aristotle offers. The options open to the "essentialist" are much more varied and complex than recent anti-essentialist caricatures of the position allow (Frank, 213-268). The picture of Aristotle's influence on subsequent essentialist thought about social institutions in general and the market in particular is similarly complex. Both Aristotle's essentialism and his discussion of the market have had a large influence on philosophical and economic thought. Aristotelian essentialism, as far as description of the natural world is concerned, has had a long-standing influence and indeed has recently undergone something of a revival. (Fukuyama, 82-113)
In the social realm it is possible to find theorists, most notably Hegel and Marx, who self-consciously defend Aristotle's essentialism in its full teleological form. Aristotle's discussion of th ...Show more

Summary

In the era posterior to Marxist and the liberals, the debate has moved on to the new territory concerns the appropriate institutional framework, within the parameters of which a market may operate. Essences and markets Aristotle uses both the general essence/accident distinction and the more particular teleological account of essences to describe the market as a social institution (Marx & Fowkes, 347-574)…
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