Purpose – To demonstrate that person and the philosophy of personalism are more relevant to contemporary economic affairs than individual and the philosophy of individualism. Design/methodology/approach – This paper addresses two tasks. First, it provides a sketch of what it means to approach economic affairs from the perspective of person and personalism versus individual and individualism. Second, it traces the origins of personalist economics to Aristotle, Aquinas, and Smith, shows why personalist economics departs from mainstream economics, and how it is linked to Weber and Walras principally through Schumpeter. Findings – This paper provides a schematic showing that personalist economics originates with Aristotle, Aquinas, and Smith without embracing the individualism of the Enlightenment and a timeline that connects the three stages of human communication – oral/aural, script, and electronic – to the evolution of economics since the Enlightenment. Research limitations/implications – This paper challenges mainstream economics to consider the adequacy of individual/individualism in an age where it is self-evident that human beings are not autonomous individuals. Practical implications – The individual as the basic unit of economic analysis is a creature born of the individualism of the script stage. The person as the basic unit of economic analysis was born of the personalism of the electronic stage and, therefore, is much better suited to economic analysis in an age of economic globalization. Originality/value – The integration of work on human communication with the way in which economists should be thinking about contemporary economic affairs.
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