Pragmatism and economics: William James' contribution

Jack Barbalet*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


In addition to his treatment of habit, which is widely recognised as contributing to a theory of institutions, William James' discussion of choice and rationality, as well as self-interest, make significant contributions to areas of concern in modern economic theory. James' incisive and insightful analysis of these and related phenomena is achieved in part by including, together with instinct and habit, emotions as a key faculty of human psychology. Each of these themes is discussed in the present paper, and connected with aspects of relevant economic literature, in order to indicate the contribution of James' pragmatism to economic theory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)797-810
Number of pages14
JournalCambridge Journal of Economics
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Choice
  • Emotions
  • Habit
  • Pragmatism
  • Rationality
  • Self-interest
  • William James


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