Stanislas Richard

The Bourgeois and the Caveman: Liberalism and Stone Age Economics

The liberal political economy of work justifies private property because it allows the elimination of slack (understood as the waste of labour time). This argument assumes that slack is correlated with the poverty and material deprivation that characterise the state of nature.

This paper contrasts this argument with Marshall Sahlins’ anthropological classic work Stone Age economics. It shows that the liberal political economy of work is incorrect, and that if the state of nature is characterised by extensive waste, it is not a state of poverty and material deprivation. The paper discusses the consequences of this finding for the liberal political economy of work.

Discussant: Shalini Randeria