A provocative and inspiring case for a more humanistic economics
Economists often act as if their methods explain all human behavior. But in Cents and Sensibility, an eminent literary critic and a leading economist make the case that the humanities, especially the study of literature, offer economists ways to make their models more realistic, their predictions more accurate, and their policies more effective and just.
Gary Saul Morson and Morton Schapiro trace the connection between Adam Smith's great classic, The Wealth of Nations, and his less celebrated book on The Theory of Moral Sentiments, and contend that a few decades later Jane Austen invented her groundbreaking method of novelistic narration in order to give life to the empathy that Smith believed essential to humanity.
Morson and Schapiro argue that Smith's heirs include Austen, Anton Chekhov, and Leo Tolstoy as well as John Maynard Keynes and Milton Friedman. Economists need a richer appreciation of behavior, ethics, culture, and narrative—all of which the great writers teach better than anyone.
Cents and Sensibility demonstrates the benefits of a freewheeling dialogue between economics and the humanities by addressing a wide range of problems drawn from the economics of higher education, the economics of the family, and the development of poor nations. It offers new insights about everything from the manipulation of college rankings to why some countries grow faster than others. At the same time, the book shows how looking at real-world problems can revitalize the study of literature itself.
Original, provocative, and inspiring, Cents and Sensibility brings economics back to its place in the human conversation.
Gary Saul Morson is the Lawrence B. Dumas Professor of the Arts and Humanities and professor of Slavic languages and literatures at Northwestern University. His many books include Narrative and Freedom, "Anna Karenina" in Our Time, and The Words of Others: From Quotations to Culture. Morton Schapiro is the president of Northwestern University and a professor of economics. His many books include The Student Aid Game (Princeton). Morson and Schapiro are also the editors of The Fabulous Future?: America and the World in 2040.
"Cents and Sensibility is a sweet contribution to the dialogue. Covering such topics as university admissions, child-rearing, organ harvesting and economic development, the chapters each analyze public questions first through economics, and then through literature. The conclusion is that economics--a hugely influential approach to studying human societies--isn’t worth all that much without first understanding what it means to be human."--Deirdre McCloskey, Wall Street Journal
"Focusing mostly on integrating exposure to great realist novels (such as Anna Karenina, Middlemarch, and War and Peace) into economics education, the authors use three case studies on, respectively, higher education, the family, and the economic development of nations to make an insightful and compelling argument. Morson and Schapiro succeed in finding new ways of thinking about big issues as well as new ways to read classic novels. . . . The case studies read like popular nonfiction. There’s immense joy to be found throughout this work on thinking with creativity and passion."--Publishers Weekly
"[Morson and Schapiro] suggest that economists could gain wisdom from reading great novelists, who have a deeper insight into people than social scientists do. Whereas economists tend to treat people as abstractions, novelists dig into the specifics. To illustrate the point, Morson and Schapiro ask, When has a scientist’s model or case study drawn a person as vividly as Tolstoy drew Anna Karenina?"--Harvard Business Review
"With an eye toward Smith, Morson and Schapiro hope that the economists of today can rediscover a sense of the individual moral--not merely practical--encounters that make up our system of free exchange."--NewCriterion.com
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