From “pursuit of virtue” to “pursuit of happiness”: Bernard Mandeville and the birth of liberalism Cover Image

Od “traganja za vrlinom” ka “traganju za srećom”: Bernard Mandeville i rađanje liberalizma
From “pursuit of virtue” to “pursuit of happiness”: Bernard Mandeville and the birth of liberalism

Author(s): Ilija Vujačić
Subject(s): Politics / Political Sciences
Published by: Fakultet političkih znanosti u Zagrebu
Keywords: liberalism; civic humanism; virtue; happiness; human nature; passions; morality; spontaneous order; Mandeville

Summary/Abstract: In this paper, the author focuses on the work of Bernard Mandeville as predecessor of Scottish Enlightenment and liberal tradition of thought. Starting from the social, political and economic context of the all-embracing crisis of the society in transition of his time, special attention is devoted to his moral, social and economic views based on methodological individualism. The author argues that Mandeville’s controversial thought resists one-sided labeling and unambiguous fitting into mutually opposed camps of mercantilism and market liberalism, i.e. constructivism and evolutionism. This is the reason behind the variety of interpretations, and sometimes even completely opposite readings of his work. He was a satirist, social critic, physician, philosopher and economist, who effectuated a shift and a turn with regard to the habitual perceptions of the age in all those segments of his reflection and activity, and he launched a sort of “revolution in thought”, which will be given its definitive formulation and elaboration in the second half of the 18th century by the Scottish moral philosophers. The author concludes that Mandeville was, first and foremost, a man of his time and responded to the acute problems of his age. It would thus be inappropriate and wrong to apply his ideas from the beginning of the 18th century to the present time with a clearer precising of intellectual and political projects, and declare him either a mercantilist or an interventionist, or else an advocate of laissez-faire. Nonetheless, Mandeville came up with answers that would later be incorporated in the liberal tradition. One may therefore say that he greatly influenced the Scottish Enlightenment and contributed to the birth of liberalism, although he was not a consistent economic liberal himself, of the type that was familiar to the late 18th century.

  • Issue Year: XLIX/2012
  • Issue No: 04
  • Page Range: 84-108
  • Page Count: 25
  • Language: Serbian