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The Science of Passionate Interests

An Introduction to Gabriel Tarde’s Economic Anthropology

How can economics become genuinely quantitative? This is the question that French sociologist Gabriel Tarde tackled at the end of his career, and in this pamphlet, Bruno Latour and Vincent Antonin Lépinay offer a lively introduction to the work of the forgotten genius of nineteenth-century social thought. Tarde’s solution was in total contradiction to the dominant views of his time: to quantify the connections between people and goods, you need to grasp “passionate interests.” In Tarde’s view, capitalism is not a system of cold calculations—rather it is a constant amplification in the intensity and reach of passions. In a stunning anticipation of contemporary economic anthropology, Tarde’s work defines an alternative path beyond the two illusions responsible for so much modern misery: the adepts of the Invisible Hand and the devotees of the Visible Hand will learn how to escape the sterility of their fight and recognize the originality of a thinker for whom everything is intersubjective, hence quantifiable.

At a time when the regulation of financial markets is the subject of heated debate, Latour and Lépinay provide a valuable historical perspective on the fundamental nature of capitalism.

100 pages | 4 1/2 x 7 | © 2009

Political Science: Classic Political Thought

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Table of Contents


It Is Because The Economy Is Subjective That It Is Quantifiable

A Return to Value(s)

Two Mistakes to Be Avoided

Ceasing to Confuse Recto with Verso

How to Specify Quantities

Quantifying, Yes, but Doing So Advisedly

A Mistake in Temperature

Getting Closer Instead of Moving Away


The Nature of Economics

Invention Before Accumulation

A Social Darwinism, But an Inverted One

Redistributing Production Factors

Capital Trends

An Economics of Compossibilities

There Has Never Been a “Capitalist Regime”


Economics Without Providence

The Return of Politics in Political Economy

The “Adam Smith Problem” and the Question of God

The Likely Mistake of the Coming Socialism


If You Chase the Big Beast Away, It Comes Galloping Back

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