Michelle Chihara on Realizing Capital : Financial and Psychic Economies in Victorian Form and Scandals and Abstraction : Financial Fiction of the Long 1980s
Scholars in behavioral economics and economic anthropology have also done trailblazing research that supports the inherently humanistic qualities of finance. In economic anthropology, Donald Mackenzie has demonstrated that markets are performative, that they bring their own narratives into being. Philosopher and historian Philip Mirowski has traced the effects on markets of dominant neoliberal thought patterns. Economics, both the intellectual discipline and the realm of markets and prices, is more entangled with metaphor and narrative than the quants would have us believe. Material economic realities are changed by the use and abuse of metaphor and narrative.
Despite all this, when humanists take on the rhetoric of economics, economists scoff, and some self-marginalizing humanists back them up. At an academic conference in the humanities, I saw an excellent literary scholar attack his own discipline with the accusation that literary critics do a poor-man’s version of philosophy or anthropology or economics, with the evidence being that our work would not be taken seriously in those other departments. But why should this be our standard? If 2008 taught us anything, it’s that the whole culture has followed the economic quants far enough down the complexity rabbit hole. I would argue that it might be the scholarship that neoclassical economists dismiss most forcefully that we should look to for help in questioning the self-interested models that the financial sector asserts are real. As these books help us realize, it is humanists who are best trained to pull back the curtain on what we are talking about when we talk about finance.