Posts Tagged ‘homo economicus’

The interactive diagram

4 November 2009

Here is how Callon defines homo economicus 2.0 in terms of Barry’s notion of the “interactive diagram:”

The interactive diagram is a socio-technical agencement configured in such a way that at the center of the collective action we find an individual who is capable of developing projects and is endowed with a will to accomplish them, and who holds herself (because she is held) responsible for her acts and their effects. This diagram constitutes a particular answer to questions concerning the modalities of action. To the question “Who is at the source of the action?” the diagram answers “The individual and her projects.” To the question “What is the status of the different participants in the action?” it answers “On the one hand the individual defining and undertaking projects, whose identity changes and adjusts in relation to feedback and results, and on the other hand the technical devices with which she interacts and which constantly suggest original courses of action.” To the question “What does the action produce?” it answers “The discovery of possible new worlds, the unexpected, constant experimentation.” (p. 39)

Homo economicus 2.0

3 November 2009

In the June 2004 issue of the Economic Sociology Newsletter [PDF] the following exchange took place between the interviewer (Søren Jagd) and Laurent Thévenot (“The French Convention School and the Coordination of Economic Action,” p.  13):


Michel Callon argues that the model of economic man could be useful for people engaging in economic activities. And that the interesting thing about this model is if it is actually used by economic actors. Do you agree with that argument?


If Callon says that I would say: Why do they use it? I would ask: What kind of properties should this variety of models have? This is not the kind of question he can answer. He would just answer that they do use it. I think that the problem with this answer is that it will lack a reflection on this architecture of regimes and on the path to the public. This is the main problem for me with this overwhelming notion of network. It doesn’t give any specification of the link, of the social link, of the social action. And again I think a good specification would require this specification both of the good and of the reality as it is used as a test. Instead of that the network modelling in general terms is, I would say, flat, so it cannot give you a good picture of what is needed to go from proximity to the public and to come back from there.

Callon’s essay, “Economic Markets and the Rise of Interactive Agencements” in Pinch and Swedberg’s 2008 book, Living In a Material World, reads like a reply to this challenge, as he develops exactly what Thévenot seems to be asking for. Callon defends his notion of homo economicus 2.0 (also discussed elsewhere) by developing a conceptual framework that allows him not only to describe the conditions for the emergence of such calculative individual agency and its characteristics but also to present some normative considerations for political action. In the process he also manages to revitalise actor-network theory for the study of economic phenomena.