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The Romantic Economist: imagination in economics

Richard Bronk|
Cambridge University Press (5 February 2009)

Cover of The Romantic Economist: imagination in economicsSince 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.

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.

Richard Bronk| is a visiting fellow at the European Institute at LSE.

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'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)

'Richard 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, LSE

'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

Book Launch - Discussion Seminar

Tuesday 10 February 2009, 6-8pm, Room D502, Clement House, Aldwych, LSE
The Forum for European Philosophy is hosting this discussion seminar jointly with the European Institute (LSE) and Cambridge University Press. The book's main arguments will by introduced by Richard Bronk, who is a visiting fellow at the European Institute, LSE and also author of Progress and the Invisible Hand (Little Brown, 1998). He will be in discussion with Simon Glendinning, reader in European Philosophy and director of the Forum for European Philosophy, European Institute, LSE and Christa van Wijnbergen, research fellow at the European Institute, LSE. This event is free with no ticket required. More|