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Debunking the Myth of Homo economicus

What do you see when you peek behind the curtains of neoliberal capitalism? What happens when you lift the veil off? Well, you see a mythological character. An apparition that haunts our collective consciousness. A spectre that permeates our institutions and that has epistemologically imprisoned us. Homo economicus


The term Homo economicus, or economic man, is a core principle in mainstream economic thinking. It’s a portrayal of humans as being inherently rational, greedy, and self-interested.

Where did the idea of Homo economicus come from? Why is it so embedded in mainstream economic thinking? And most importantly, is it true? Are we Homo economicus? Or are we the opposite — kind, compassionate, altruistic beings whose good nature has been thwarted by a mistaken view of our own humanity? Or is the truth somewhere in between? These are some of the questions we will be exploring in this episode, “Debunking the Myth of Homo economicus.”


Bayo Akomolafe — Philosopher, author, professor, and organizer currently based in India

David Sloan Wilson — Evolutionary biologist and a Professor of Biological Sciences and Anthropology at Binghamton University in New York.

George Monbiot — Journalist and author of "Out of the Wreckage: A New Politics for an Age of Crisis"

Kate Raworth — Renegade economist and author of "Doughnut Economics"

Matt Christman — Co-host of the Chapo Traphouse podcast

Peter Fleming  — Professor in organization theory and author of "The Death of Homo economicus"

Tom Crompton — Co-director of the Common Cause Foundation

Vas — Former economics student (Vas declined to provide her last name)

Yuan Yang — Founder of Rethinking Economics


Haley Heynderickx

American Football


Many thanks to Charlie Young for the cover art

and to Elle Bisgard Church, Lilly Datnow, and Emmanuel Brown

for their research and support for this episode

Support for this episode of Upstream was provided by The Guerrilla Foundation, supporting activists & grassroots movements to bring about major systemic change.

Additional support was provided by the Upstream Works Collaborative. Taking a systems approach to uplifting communities, they also go upstream to address the root causes of social, economic, and environmental injustices. Learn more at

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