Economists, it seems, have discovered the fact that economic ideas are produced and disseminated outside the texts of academic economics. In novels, for example.
Diane Coyle offers her list of “classics for economists,” after which we have Noah Smith’s “science fiction for economists” (to which Paul Krugman has added his own favorites) and some crime fiction by Mark Palko.
Good. I’m all in favor of expanding the world of economic representations, which is a project Jack Amariglio and I started more than a decade ago (in chapter seven of Postmodern Moments in Modern Economics, on “Academic and Everyday Economic Knowledges) and that I continued (with Economic Representations: Academic and Everyday and an essay in Cultural Studies, titled “Economic Representations: What’s at Stake?”).
But then let’s get serious about the project. First, by going beyond novels, to look at the many other representations of economic ideas (such as in the list above, from fairytales to photography). And second, by actually taking such diverse economic representations seriously, by analyzing their role alongside and as distinct from the texts of academic economics. What I argued in the Cultural Studies essay is that one of the consequences of examining the texts of nonacademic, “everyday” economics
is that we can begin to unearth and examine knowledges of existing economic arrangements and imaginaries of alternative economies that are hidden within or behind, that in one way or another exceed, ‘official’ ideas about the economy. By official ideas I not only mean mainstream, ‘neo-liberal’ celebrations of private property and free markets to which so much attention is directed these days; I am also referring to heterodox (including Marxian, radical, and other) conceptions of a monolithic, hegemonic global capitalism. Thus, we may find that everyday economic discourses represent the modern-day equivalent of a Bakhtinian carnival, which includes, on the one hand, stylized parodies of (and even attacks on) all sorts of official academic languages and pronouncements and, on the other hand, conceptual strategies and ways of seeing that pave the way for alternative economic practices and institutions.
And today, in the midst of the Second Great Depression, moving beyond official ideas about the economy, which are often imposed by mainstream academic economists, is more important than ever.