The Dutch background of Bernard Mandeville's thought: escaping the Procrustean bed of neo-Augustinianism


  • Rudi Verburg Erasmus University Rotterdam



Mandeville, commercial society, Johan and Pieter de la Court, Dutch commercial republicanism, French moral tradition


This paper argues that the neo-Augustinian outlook of the French moral tradition has been used for too long as a Procrustean bed, thereby depreciating the Dutch background of Mandeville's thought. In particular, Johan and Pieter de la Court were an important source of inspiration for Mandeville. In trying to come to terms with commercial society, the brothers developed a positive theory of interest and the passions, emphasizing the social utility of self-interest and honour in securing the health and wealth of the commonwealth. By combining elements from neo-Augustinian and Dutch commercial republican discourses, Mandeville devised a new logic for interpreting the nature and growth of commercial society, which was to inspire intense debate.

Author Biography

Rudi Verburg, Erasmus University Rotterdam

Rudi Verburg is assistant professor in the history of economics at the Erasmus University of Rotterdam, The Netherlands. His research interests include eighteenth-century economic thought, Adam Smith, institutional theory and ethics and economics. He is currently writing on the history of greed and self-interest in economics.




How to Cite

Verburg, R. (2016). The Dutch background of Bernard Mandeville’s thought: escaping the Procrustean bed of neo-Augustinianism. Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics, 9(1), 32-61.