The individual and the society in Walras

Jérôme Lallement

Abstract

Modern analyses present the general equilibrium as an archetype of methodological individualism, enabling the reconciliation of individual interests through the market. This article aims at showing the originality and the specificity of the treatment of this issue by Walras. We first show that Walras considers the individual (oneself) and the society (the others) as natural objects, which necessarily coexist, thus rejecting an individualistic ontology. But Walras also rejects holism and develops an analysis that considers the individual and the state as two complementary and inseparable entities. This results in a vision of the economic role of the state that is far removed from individualistic liberalism. The state must intervene to make free enterprise possible by organizing markets and maintaining competition. To do so, the state must have its own resources, not obtained through taxation, but through the nationalization of the land.

JEL classification: B4, B13, B21.

Keywords

  • methodological individualism
  • holism
  • individual
  • society
  • state
  • liberalism
  • ontology
  • Walras

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