Underwriting the Market: A Literary Genealogy of Modern Economic Thought

17 February 2021, 12:30 - 14:00

Online

The seminars provided a supportive, intellectually stimulating environment in which to share work and receive feedback from people in various disciplines.
– Chana Morgenstern (Early Career Fellow in Michaelmas 2018)

 

This event is part of the CRASSH Fellows Work-in-Progress Seminar Series. All welcome but please email fellowships@crassh.cam.ac.uk to book your place and request readings.


Dr Dominic Walker

My work starts from the premise that, beginning in the 1870s, mainstream economics has methodically curtailed the role of language and, as a result of that, the participation of the humanities in the production of economic knowledge. Economists and policymakers might still freely commandeer literary techniques to make their ideas legible and persuasive to the general public, but they are able to overlook unwelcome discursive interventions on the grounds that mathematics, not language, is the definitive criterion of economic validity.

During my time at CRASSH, I hope to develop a new, genealogical way for the humanities to prevail on modern economic thought by addressing the literary activities of influential economists. The project has four main aims:

1) To understand why literary writing has often been a proving ground for new economic ideas;
2) To grasp how economics could be regarded as an intuitive step forward for writers who first thought to present their ideas in literary form;
3) To determine whether certain literary forms have had a greater tendency to attract economic thinkers and ideas; and
4) To challenge the positivism and ahistoricity of mainstream economics by providing a new, richly ideological context for its development.

My hypothesis is that, much as J M Keynes thought that politicians and businesspeople ‘believe themselves to be quite exempt from […] defunct economics’, modern economics is more rooted in vestigial literary thinking than it is generally prepared to acknowledge.

Before working at CRASSH, I taught on the University of Gothenburg’s English programme at the University of Sussex. Prior to that, I taught at the University Sussex itself, where I also did my PhD. My PhD, supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, was about economics in the work of Samuel Beckett. I have published on Beckett and theories of economic equilibrium; Beckett, Foucault and what Foucault calls “neoliberalism”; Beckett and the Algerian Revolution; and Beckett as ‘modernist latecomer’. My next article is about Jane Austen’s unlikely influence on the economist Friedrich Hayek. I am currently a College Lecturer at Magdalene College.