Comte, Altruism and the Critique of Political Economy

Working paper de Philippe Steiner

This paper is about Comte's conception of altruism, and the role played by this new concept in his critique to political economy. In the first section, the paper considers how selfish behaviour, or egoism, became treated as a major threat endangering the creation of industrial society by those concerned about the diffusion of political economy. Then, the paper summarizes the methodological critique set forth in the Cours, before connecting this critique to the economic content of the Système and the concept of altruism. In the final section , the paper contrasts Spencer's view of altruism to that held by Comte, and then considers the reaction of French political economists, defending the moral value of their science.

The author

Philippe Steiner is a professor of sociology at the University of Paris-Sorbonne. Researcher at GEMASS, he conducts his research on economic sociology and the history of the social sciences. He recently published Donner ... A History of Altruism (Presses Universitaires de France, 2016) and co-directed with S. Naulin Solidarity with distance. When the gift passes through organizations, (Presses universitaires du Midi, 2016).


Philippe Steiner. Comte, Altruism and the Critique of Political Economy. FMSH-WP-2015-99; GeWoP-8. 2015.<halshs-01168341>


Mis à jour le
25 June 2015

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