red light district Nino Hilal | getty images

La concubine de l’économiste

LONDRES – Depuis quelques années, la discipline économique vient coloniser l’étude d’activités humaines jusqu’à présent considérées comme exemptes de tout calcul formel. Ce que certains détracteurs qualifiaient d’« impérialisme de l’économie » laisse place désormais à une économie de l’amour, des arts, de la musique, des langues, de la littérature, et de bien d’autres choses.

L’idée unificatrice sous-tendant cette extension de l’économie est la suivante : quoi que fassent les individus, qu’il s’agisse de faire l’amour ou de concevoir des produits, leur objectif consiste à atteindre le meilleur résultat pour le moindre coût. Leur analyse coûts-avantages se réduit à une question d’argent. Ainsi, les individus visent systématiquement le meilleur rendement financier possible dans le cadre de leurs transactions.

Ceci vient contrarier une forme de distinction traditionnelle entre des activités dont il apparaît normal (et rationnel) de calculer le coût, et d’autres activités pour lesquelles les individus ne procèdent pas (et ne devraient pas procéder) à un calcul du coût. Affirmer que les affaires de cœur feraient l’objet d’un froid calcul de coût revient pour certains observateurs critiques à passer à côté du sujet. Or, ce froid calcul s’inscrit précisément au cœur du sujet, répondent les économistes.

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