Laurent Dobuzinskis, PhD


My current research interests fall within the broad field of political economy. My previous research activities were more focused on the “political” (or policy) side of the nexus. I have progressively moved more and more in the direction of the “economy” side, looking at it from the angles of economic theory and political philosophy through a pragmatic prism. (See Dobuzinskis 2022, chapter 1 for an elaboration on this point).

Looking back

The earlier stages of my career can be divided into two streams. One was concerned with the epistemology of social science—and the theory of complexity in particular (see Dobuzinskis 1987). The other was oriented toward issues in policy-making and public administration. The link between these two streams being that my contributions to the policy studies is largely devoted to an analysis of the role of knowledge in policy-making (e.g., the role of think tanks). Much of this phase of my research can be summarized as driving home the point that efforts to use knowledge in policy formulation and implementation have oscillated between an exaggerated faith in rationalism and more or less convincing alternatives to rationalism (from deliberative democracy to Hayekian “spontaneous order). While I have moved some distance away from the field of policy studies, my interest in complexity—and its corollary, namely, uncertainty—continues to be central to my theoretical interests.

Contributions to political economy

Dobuzinskis (2022) and Dobuzinskis (2023) are my most significant contribution to political economy. These works are the outcome of a long intellectual journey which involved three overlapping inquiries. The first is an excursion in the history of ideas; the second is theoretical, that is to say, partly epistemological and partly situated in moral philosophy; the third inquiry is practically oriented toward the search for “nonideal” strategies for rectifying injustices, seeking a path between a dogmatic defence of free markets, on the one hand, and a commitment to utopian conception of “social justice.” Both works include elements from these three enquiries, but Dobuzinskis (2022) offers a broader historical perspective, going back to the 16the century, while Dobuzinskis (2023) is more focused on contemporary policy dilemmas.

Modern economic controversies

Dobuzinskis (2022) provides an account of the methodological controversies that have shaped modern economics. Intertwined with these controversies are reflections on the ethical implications of using self-interest as the fundamental motivation of economic actors. In that respect, I propose a narrative that for the purpose of opening a critical discussion, even though it should definitely not be taken too literally. The story goes as follows. Economic theorizing was originally characterized by the search for a delicate balance between prudential self-interest and what Adam Smith called “sympathy,” that is to say an other-regarding outlook that sets limits on selfish choices. Modern neoclassical economics largely dispensed with sympathy by focusing almost exclusively on “utility-maximization.” But recent developments in a variety of economic subfields, often borrowing from other disciplines (e.g., social psychology, evolutionary theory, political philosophy) have rediscovered the indispensability of concepts such as fairness, reciprocity and “enlightened” self-interest. Not only do these conceptual tools help making sense of what is actually going on in markets and civil society, but they also prove to be instrumental in renewing economic theory itself. Dobuzinskis (2023) offers another narrative about the use of interpersonal comparisons of utility which were at first recommended by C. Pigou when he founded welfare economics; they were then abandoned by the New Welfare Economics, only to be placed back into the economists’ too kit by contemporary “nonwelfarist” models. (I also discuss in that work the ethical implications of this narrative.)


The concluding chapters of my two recent books (Dobuzinskis 2022; 2023) sketch out a theoretical perspective (Dobuzinskis 2022) that recommends the re-integration of civil society in normative political economy and proposes a greater reliance on “predistributive” or asset-based policies as the most promising way reconcile economic freedom and fairness (Dobuzinskis 2023). The latter seek to empower individuals by facilitating their ex-ante access to capital as opposed to the ex-post redistribution of income. Provided that predistribution stays within reasonable limits, it is more efficient than redistribution. It is also normatively more satisfying for both progressive and classical liberals. The former will be attracted by the empowering effects of these policies; the latter will appreciate the fact that it considerably broadens the pool of people with a positive stake in the preservation of a market economy. In these works, I uncritically allude to the Italian “civil economy” tradition as a way to tie in all these normative and practical strands. I intend to deepen my understanding of this approach but also to take a more critical look at its strengths and weaknesses.

Looking forward

Future projects will raise the question of whether, or to what extent, some of these weaknesses call for establishing bridges with comparable but distinct schools of thought to which I am also partial, such as left-libertarianism and Ordoliberalism. One again, pragmatism should serve me well in that respect. I also intend to explore whether one could (or not!) discern some similarities between this Italian school and French liberalism, the latter being another interest of mine which could not be fitted into what I outlined so far. Is there a divide, or at least some distinct differences of emphasis, between broadly speaking the Continental European and Anglo-American liberal (non-Marxist, non authoritarian) traditions?