The Romantic Economist: Imagination in Economics

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Since economies are dynamic processes driven by creativity, social norms, and emotions as well as rational calculation, why do economists largely study them using static equilibrium models and narrow rationalistic assumptions? Economic activity is as much a function of imagination and social sentiments as of the rational optimisation of given preferences and goods. In this book, Richard Bronk argues that economists can best model and explain these creative and social aspects of markets by using new structuring assumptions and metaphors derived from the poetry and philosophy of the Romantics. By bridging the divide between literature and science, and between Romanticism and narrow forms of Rationalism, economists can access grounding assumptions, models, and research methods suitable for comprehending the creativity and social dimensions of economic activity. This is a guide to how economists and other social scientists can broaden their analytical repertoire to encompass the vital role of sentiments, language, and imagination.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The Romantic Economist is a miracle, combining sophisticated economics with, of all things, sophisticated literary criticism—in aid of the economics. An economics that recognized our Wordsworthian selves, Richard Bronk argues in a lucid and learned style, would do much better at the analysis of getting and spending. The world is too much with us if we do not have a humanistic science of economics. Bronk is among the handful of modern students of the economy who sees this clear. Literary folk can learn from Bronk about the dismal science. But it is the tribe of the Econ who need him most. Fortunately they will find the needful assignment here a delight." - Deirdre McCloskey, author of The Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce (2006)

"Bronk's The Romantic Economist is a highly original exploration of the ways in which an understanding of the Romantic tradition can help enrich and improve our economic thinking. With a rare command of orthodox economics, philosophy and literature, Bronk shows how our view of economic life is shaped by metaphors that limit our vision. Arguing that absorbing some of the insights into human action of Romantic writers enables us to correct these distortions, Bronk liberates economics from the stultifying effects of an over-mechanical view of human action. His book will be read with profit by political theorists, historians of ideas and - not least - practising economists." - John Gray, Emeritus Professor of European Thought, London School of Economics.

"This is a truly riveting book which carries one, with wit, analytical sharpness and an unusual clarity of style, through two centuries of Anglo-Saxon debate between political philosophers, political economists, poets and public intellectuals over the nature of economics. It establishes Richard Bronk as a substantial intellectual in the cultural history of economic thought." - David Soskice, Research Professor of Comparative Political Economy, Oxford University and Research Professor of Political Science, Duke University.

"... fascinating new book" - Larry Elliott, Economics Editor, The Guardian

"... a fascinating blast against simplistic maths-based thinking, in favour of what he calls the Romantic Economist.... a very radical book.... very persuasive." - Andrew Marr, BBC Radio 4

"The book is superb—a wonderful blend of common sense, erudition, and imagination." - David Colander, Christian A. Johnson Distinguished Professor of Economics, Middlebury College

"Richard Bronk’s examination of economic history provides timely and useful food for thought, taking an intriguing approach to multi-disciplinary thinking that could just save twenty-first-century economics." - International Affairs

"Richard Bronk speaks to and skillfully brings together the worlds of economics and literary criticism. It is impressive how much insight he has into both fields. This is one of the best books I have read in years." - Professor Sevket Pamuk, European Institute, London School of Economics and Political Science

"An original and more revolutionary than it gives itself credit for critique of the standard neo-classical economics, this volume draws inspiration from the thinkers and writers of Romanticism in order to improve the breadth, depth and validity of economic theorising. Breathtakingly erudite and remarkably clear in its argument, it's certainly not for everybody, but a must for all policy practitioners, highly recommended for economists and worth checking out for anybody interested in social sciences." - Magda Healey, The Bookbag

"The argument is bold, important and, of course, timely.... As the neoclassically dominated discipline of economics may be on the verge of entering into a process of profound crisis, Bronk has perhaps sown the seeds of a new paradigm in economics, or at least the possibility of multiparadigmacy." - Journal of Cultural Economy

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521513845
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/2009
  • Pages: 402
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Bronk spent the first seventeen years of his career working in the City of London, where he gained a wide expertise in international economics, business, and politics. He is now a writer and part-time academic, and a Visiting Fellow in the European Institute at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Table of Contents

Preface; Acknowledgements; 1. Preface to The Romantic Economist; Part I. The Prelude: The Romantic Economist and the History of Ideas: 2. The great divide; 3. Debates within political economy; 4. Lessons from Romanticism; Part II. Fragments of Unity: Romantic Economics in Practice: 5. Using organic metaphors in economics; 6. Economics and the nation state; 7. Incommensurable values; 8. Imagination and creativity in markets; 9. Homo romanticus and other homines; 10. Imagination and perspective in economics; 11. The Romantic economist: conclusion.

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