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Beyond Self-Interest: Why the Market Rewards Those Who Reject It

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A provocative retelling of the workings of self-interest in a contemporary market society, which claims the world increasingly belongs to passionates, obsessives, and fanatics: those who do things for their own sake, rather than as means to other ends.

In our capitalist market society, we have come to accept that the way to get ahead is through strong will, grit, and naked ambition. This belief has served us well: it has contributed to making our affluent societies affluent. But does the premise still hold?

As Krzysztof Pelc argues in Beyond Self-Interest, this default assumption no longer captures reality. There is a limit to the returns of calculation, planning, and resolution, and in a growing number of settings, this limit has been reached

The true idols of market society, he contends, are those who
disavow their self-interest, or at least appear to do so: eco-conscious entrepreneurs, media moguls with a mission, and modern-day artisans catering to a well-educated and ever more socially conscious population of consumers

Pelc tells the story of this paradox from its unlikely emergence among a group of British thinkers in the early 19th century to its development over the next two centuries, as it was successively picked up by philosophers, novelists, social scientists, and, ultimately, capitalists themselves

All of whom arrived at a common realization: the appearance of disinterest pays, but only if it is believable-which presents the self-interested among us with a tricky problem.

Drawing on three centuries of thought about commercial society and the people living in it, this richly researched account of the cycles of capitalism does not naively suggest that we should reject the market

Rather, it calls on us to treat economic growth once more as its earliest theorists did: as a formidable tool of human development, instead of an end in itself

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