I'm looking for a word that captures the ideology of believing everything can be traced back to rational self-interest. I know that this is a form of weak altruism, and that many ideas of economic rationality, capitalism, and Enlightenment/neoliberal ideologies tend to be rooted in this, but I can't place the exact word for it.

In fact, the definition of neoliberalism comes close, in how it is described as a faith in the value of the free-market in itself. I am looking for the definition of "faith in the fundamentality of human self-interest in itself." A sort of reductionism where cooperation, community, and all those other good things get traced back to self-interest.

This came about in a discussion about neoliberalism. We began to conflate neoliberalism with this idea, which I think has its own word.

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    Psychological egoism comes close. "The view that humans are always motivated by self-interest, even in what seem to be acts of altruism." Wikipedia
    – ermanen
    Dec 23, 2014 at 15:48
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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about philosophy, not English language. Dec 23, 2014 at 16:25
  • "Captures the ideology of"?
    – TimR
    Dec 23, 2014 at 16:26
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    Machiavellianism comes close, but doesn't seem to include the group-interest part. Coopetition is a neologism that also attempts to describe this. In economics, it is most commonly known as rational actors or rational choice theory. Dec 23, 2014 at 18:46
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    Asked this question on philosophy stackexchange, got downvoted and redirected here :).
    – szxk
    Dec 24, 2014 at 3:06

3 Answers 3


Ayn Rand called it "Objectivism".

  • This could be the answer but it would be great if you could explain! Jul 28, 2015 at 13:33
  • Sorry, I've never read Ayn Rand. But from what I've heard about her writings, it seems to fit. Jul 29, 2015 at 8:17

From an economic perspective "neoliberalism" certainly is apt; from a psychological perspective, which would precede an economics (or any other) perspective "egoism," as ermanen suggested.

  • Could you explain more about why neoliberalism is apt? Jul 28, 2015 at 13:33
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    EleventhDoctor, I don't understand what you don't understand, you use the term neoliberal and neoliberalism 4X in the OP, and though the purported purpose of this OP is to identify a word that captures the ideology of believing everything can be traced back to rational self-interest, you also claim the definition of neoliberalism comes close. I'm left not really understanding what you want, but it seems as if you would like to have a philosophical discussion. Speaking for myself, neoliberalism = economic feudalism. A human self is not merely composed of an ego, but includes family ...
    – user98990
    Jul 28, 2015 at 14:27
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    extended family, clan, tribe, nation, culture, and ultimately, the entire ecosystem along w/the inorganic substrate upon which all else is founded and nourished. What is the definition of rational in the term rational self-interest? Radical egoism, in the guise of neoliberal economics strikes me as anything but rational.
    – user98990
    Jul 28, 2015 at 14:32
  • Apologies @Little-Eva, I didn't pose the question so I am not the OP. However I can see that I should have read the question more carefully! Thank you very much for laying out your thoughts on the matter. Jul 28, 2015 at 15:53
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    My apologies @EleventhDoctor, I made an erroneous assumption and failed to refer back to the OP, my bad! To tell you the truth, I do not actually understand what this OP is seeking (for the reasons I addressed to you, mistakenly, in the previous comment), though when I originally answered I thought I did. Oh well. Sorry, again.
    – user98990
    Jul 28, 2015 at 18:38

Beard's concept of 'economic determinism' is a possibility. Economic determinism holds that ideology is based on the structure of economic relationships, so all ideology in a capitalist economy is purely in one's self interest.

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