Why Pufendorf Matters

  • Dirk Ehnts
  • Erik Jochem
Part of the The European Heritage in Economics and the Social Sciences book series (EHES, volume 23)


Modern economics evolves from (neo)classical political economy, which stresses the role of the individual and rationality. Using Kantian foundations, it is argued that economic is what concerns the individual urge to pursue personal wealth. Nature and the social sphere are both ignored. An alternative view can be based on the ideas of human nature that Samuel Pufendorf formed. According to him, man is sociable. His self-interest is often applied toward this end and not an end in itself. Also, nature plays a role as man can decide what to do with it. Last but not least, Pufendorf recognizes that individuals grow up in society, where they are formed through the use of language and the internalization of conventions. Man, without society, is not perfect and cannot hope to strive for happiness. He needs support from society to protect himself from his fellow man and to increase the chances of realizing this drive toward sociability. Economics could be rebuilt on stronger foundations as neuroscience seems to confirm Pufendorf’s view of human nature in general.


Homo oeconomicus Homo sociooeconomicus Philosophy Self-interest Sociability 

JEL Codes

A1 B1 B4 P16 


  1. Appelbaum, Binyamin (2019): The Economists’ Hour: How the False Prophets of Free Markets Fractured Our Society, New York: PicadorGoogle Scholar
  2. Bauer, Joachim (2011): Schmerzgrenze: Vom Ursprung alltäglicher und globaler Gewalt, München: HeyneGoogle Scholar
  3. Bezemer, Dirk (2009): No one saw this coming. Understanding financial crisis through accounting models, SOM Research Reports Vol. 09002, Groningen: University of GroningenGoogle Scholar
  4. Blyth, Mark (2013): Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea, Oxford: Oxford University PressGoogle Scholar
  5. Boyd, Robert and Peter J Richerson (2009): Culture and the evolution of human cooperation, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 364 (1533): 3281–3288CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Constâncio, Vítor (2017): The future of monetary policy frameworks, Lecture by at the Instituto Superior de Economia e Gestão, Lisbon, 25 May 2017,
  7. Dawkins, Richard (1976): The Selfish Gene, Oxford: Oxford University PressGoogle Scholar
  8. de Saint-Exupéry, Antoine (1943): The Little Prince, New York: Reynal and HitchcockGoogle Scholar
  9. De Vore, Irven and Richard Borshay Lee [eds.] (1968): Man the Hunter: The First Intensive Survey of a Single, Crucial Stage of Human Development—Man’s Once Universal Hunting Way of Life, Chicago: AldineGoogle Scholar
  10. Dumont, Louis (1991): Individualismus: Zur Ideologie der Moderne, Frankfurt/New York: CampusGoogle Scholar
  11. Ehnts, Dirk (2016): Modern Monetary Theory and European Macroeconomics, Abingdon, UK: RoutledgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Ehnts, Dirk and Fritz Helmedag (2018): The Present State of Economics: Errors and Omissions Excepted, in: Omar Feraboli and Carlo Morelli (eds.), Post-Crash Economics: Plurality and Heterodox Ideas in Teaching and Research, London: Palgrave MacmillanGoogle Scholar
  13. Eisenberger, Naomi, Matthew Lieberman and Kipling Williams (2003): Does Rejection Hurt? An fMRI Study of Social Exclusion, Science 302 (5643), 290–292CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Flint, John and Ryan Powell (2013): Individualization and Social Dis/integration in Contemporary Society: A Comparative Note on Zygmunt Bauman and Norbert Elias, in: Depelteau, F. and T. Landini (Eds.), Norbert Elias and Social Theory, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, p. 261–274CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Georgescu-Roegen (1971): The Entropy Law and the Economic Process. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University PressGoogle Scholar
  16. Giegold, Sven, Udo Philipp and Schick, Gerhard (2016): Finanzwende: Den nächsten Crash verhindern. Berlin: WagenbachGoogle Scholar
  17. Gigerenzer, Gerd (2007): Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious, New York: Viking AdultGoogle Scholar
  18. Greenwood, David J. and William A. Stini (1977): Nature, Culture, and Human History, New York: Harper and Row, 393–408Google Scholar
  19. Haller, Max and Markus Hadler (2006): How Social Relations and Structures Can Produce Happiness and Unhappiness: An International Comparative Analysis, Social Indicators Research 75(2), 169–216CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Helmedag, Fritz (2018): Warenproduktion mittels Arbeit – Zur Rehabilitation des Wertgesetzes, 3rd ed., Marburg: MetropolisGoogle Scholar
  21. Herrmann, Christoph (2007): Neoliberalism in the European Union, Studies in Political Economy - A Socialist Review, 79(1), 61–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hobbes, Thomas (1642): Elementorum philosophiae sectio tertia de cive, Paris: ParisiisGoogle Scholar
  23. Hobbes, Thomas (1651): Leviathan or the Matter, Forme and Power of a Commonwealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil, London: CrookeGoogle Scholar
  24. Jean-Baptiste Say (1852): Cours complet d’économie politique pratique, Paris: GuillauminGoogle Scholar
  25. Kahneman, Daniel (2011): Thinking, Fast and Slow, London and New York: MacmillanGoogle Scholar
  26. Kirchgässner, Gebhard (2008): Homo Oeconomicus - The Economic Model of Behaviour and Its Applications in Economics and Other Social Sciences, Boston, MA: SpringerGoogle Scholar
  27. Lawson, Tony (1997): Economics & Reality, Abingdon (UK): RoutledgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lewontin, Richard, Steven Rose and Leon Kamin (1984): Not in Our Genes: Biology, Ideology and Human Nature, New York: Pantheon BooksGoogle Scholar
  29. Mann, Charles C. (2005): 1491: New Revelations of the Americans Before Columbus, New York: KnopfGoogle Scholar
  30. Milgram, Stanley (1963): Behavioral study of obedience, The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 67(4), 371–378CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Müller-Kademann, Christian (2019): Uncertainty and Economics: A Paradigmatic Perspective, Abingdon, UK: RoutledgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Pufendorf, Samuel (1672): Of the Law of Nature and NationsGoogle Scholar
  33. Pufendorf, Samuel (1673): The Whole Duty of Man According to the Law of NatureGoogle Scholar
  34. Pufendorf, Samuel (1934) [1688]: De jure naturae et gentium libri octo. Volume I, Photographic Reproduction of the Edition of 1688, with an Introduction by Simons Walter. Volume II, Translation, by Oldfather C. H. and Oldfather W. A., New York: Oxford University PressGoogle Scholar
  35. Robinson, Joshua R., John Rowan, Christopher J. Campisano, Jonathan G. Wynn and Kaye E. Reed (2017): Late Pliocene environmental change during the transition from Australopithecus to Homo, Nature ecology and evolution, 1, article 159Google Scholar
  36. Rousseau, Jean-Jacques (2014) [1762]: The Major Political Writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau: The Two “Discourses” and the “Social Contract”, Chicago: University of Chicago PressGoogle Scholar
  37. Saether, Arild (2017): Natural Law and the Origin of Political Economy: Samuel Pufendorf and the History of Economics, Abingdon (UK): RoutledgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Schulmeister, Stefan (2018): Der Weg zur Prosperität, Salzburg: EcowinGoogle Scholar
  39. Slobodian, Quinn (2018): Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism, Harvard: Harvard University PressCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Sober, Elliott and David Sloan Wilson (1999): Unto Others: The Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior, Harvard, MA: Harvard University PressGoogle Scholar
  41. Sonja Lyubomirsky, Lee Ross (1997): Hedonic consequences of social comparison: A contrast of happy and unhappy people. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 73(6), 1141–1157Google Scholar
  42. Tabibnia, Golnaz, Matthew D. Lieberman (2007): Fairness and Cooperation Are Rewarding: Evidence from Social Cognitive Neuroscience. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1118(1), 90–101Google Scholar
  43. Tidemans, Nicolaus (2010): Property in a Utopian State, Informed by Ideas of Pufendorf and Locke, in: Backhaus, Jürgen (ed.) The State as Utopia: Continental Approaches, New York, Dordrecht, Heidelberg, London: SpringerGoogle Scholar
  44. Veblen, Thorstein (1899): The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study of Institutions, New York: MacmillanGoogle Scholar
  45. Vollhardt, Friedrich (2001): Selbstliebe und Geselligkeit: Untersuchungen zum Verhältnis von naturrechtlichem Denken und moraldidaktischer Literatur im 17. und 18. Jahrhundert, Tübingen: Max NiemeyerCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Wray, L. Randall (2015): Modern Money Theory: A Primer on Macroeconomics for Sovereign Monetary Systems, 2nd ed., London: Palgrave MacmillanCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dirk Ehnts
    • 1
  • Erik Jochem
    • 2
  1. 1.TU ChemnitzChemnitzGermany
  2. 2.Pufendorf-Gesellschaft e. V.LeipzigGermany

Personalised recommendations