A few quotations from the opening pages of Karl Bucher’s Industrial evolution; .
Economic theory begins from the assumption that human beings have an “economic nature,” and that “From this economic nature a principle is supposed to spring, which controls all his actions that are directed to the satisfaction of his wants. This is the economic principle . . . . Man estimates the extent of the discomfort that would arise from the non-satisfaction of a want felt by him; he measures the discomfort that the labour necessary to meet the want can cause him; he compares the discomforts with each other; and resolves to undertake the labour only when the accompanying sacrifice is less than the sacrifice of remaining unsatisfied . . . . upon undertaking the labour he again chooses the least burdensome among the various possible methods of procedure, and thus has a further series of considerations, estimations, comparisons, and judgments to enter upon” (1-2).
“We shall scarcely be able to postpone the question, whether indeed that ‘economic nature’ does not, for mankind in general, signify something acquired rather than something given by nature; and whether we must not assume at the beginning of human evolution a period of purely instinctive satisfaction of wants reaching over many thousands of years, such as we are accustomed to take for granted in the case of the lower animal” (3).