Economic thought and novels. What can we expect from the economy? - Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne Access content directly
Book Sections Year : 2022

Economic thought and novels. What can we expect from the economy?


Economic thought and the modern realistic novel share not only common objectives but also a common perspective by giving dignity to socially inferior characters who worry about their subsistence. This chapter aims to gather the threads of their knowledge. First, it is argued that the use of narrative literature in economics must avoid the two pitfalls of “illustration” and “substitution”. By collecting examples from novels which illustrate economic phenomena, concepts or reasoning, the economist would use narrative literature as an educational tool that can give access to economic knowledge to which he can access by other means – historical investigation or abstract reasoning. By seeking in literature a critique of economics which would supply a substitute discourse on similar objects, the economist would deny the variety, nuances and plasticity of economic thought and the differences of purposes of the two disciplines. Therefore, the various aspects of economic thought may be characterised by two features: (i) the will to explain the mechanisms at work in the social world, mechanisms which allow us to understand an economic order as an equilibrium of forces, irrespective of whether those forces are based on natural laws or historical and institutional contexts, and lead spontaneously or not to an efficient and or satisfying order; and (ii) the will to advise the Prince in order to transform the social world and avoid disorder and misfortune. Finally, the following hypothesis is proposed: narratives of economics cannot be substitutes to general analytical truth explaining the efficient causes of wealth and welfare, but they show what, by construction, escapes economic thought: the content of our representations of economic happiness and misfortune, the opacity and the contradictions of our desires, expectations and feelings. The economic world calls not only for advice addressed to statesmen but also for narratives addressed to all. Narrative literature enlightens our singular experiences of economics.
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hal-03823206 , version 1 (20-10-2022)



Claire Pignol. Economic thought and novels. What can we expect from the economy?. Stratos Myrogiannis and Constantinos Repapis (eds). Economics and Art Theory, 1, Routledge, pp.17-32, 2022, Routledge Frontiers of Political Economy, 978-1-003-10543-5. ⟨10.4324/9781003105435⟩. ⟨hal-03823206⟩


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