Cents and Sensibility: What Economics Can Learn from the Humanities

Gary Saul Morson (Author) Morton Schapiro (Author)

Product Details

Princeton University Press
Publish Date
May 30, 2017
5.7 X 8.5 X 1.0 inches | 1.0 pounds

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About the Author

Gary Saul Morson is the Lawrence B. Dumas Professor of the Arts and Humanities and professor of Slavic languages and literatures at Northwestern University. His many books include Narrative and Freedom, Anna Karenina in Our Time, and The Words of Others: From Quotations to Culture. Morton Schapiro is the president of Northwestern University and a professor of economics. His many books include The Student Aid Game (Princeton). Morson and Schapiro are also the editors of The Fabulous Future?: America and the World in 2040.


The main argument of Morson and Schapiro's Cents and Sensibility deserves enthusiastic support. Their intuition that there are enormous intellectual and moral gains to be had by increasing conversations between economists and humanities scholars is entirely correct, and that conversation should be encouraged both within the academy and outside of it.---Sarah Skwire, Journal of Markets & Morality
[A] wonderful book.---John Lanchester, New Yorker
Their coverage is engaging in its breadth.-- "Choice"
Broadly, I agree wholeheartedly with the view that economics, narrowly understood as modelling and empirics, needs to be supplemented by careful attention to history, ideas and culture. This matters because important variables are unquantifiable; because people do not only take decisions on 'economic' grounds; and because causes simply can never be identified by looking at macro data, which need narrative to make sense of the numbers. It also matters in a meta way. As this book argues, empathy is vital so researchers understand that some people think differently from them and are not bad or stupid for doing so: 'The narrower the set of values entertained and entertainable by our major educational institutions, the less empathetic they become to the population at large, and the more they wind up turning themselves into training grounds for one social group to maintain its pre-eminence.' A vital message for the academy in our times.-- "Enlightened Economist"
Cents and Sensibility is a sweet contribution to the dialogue. Covering such topics as university admissions, child-rearing, organ harvesting and economic development, the chapters each analyze public questions first through economics, and then through literature. The conclusion is that economics--a hugely influential approach to studying human societies--isn't worth all that much without first understanding what it means to be human.---Deirdre McCloskey, Wall Street Journal-- "Enlightened Economist"
With an eye toward Smith, Morson and Schapiro hope that the economists of today can rediscover a sense of the individual moral--not merely practical--encounters that make up our system of free exchange.---NewCriterion.com, -- "Enlightened Economist"
[Morson and Schapiro] want economists to talk to people in the humanities. They think public policy could be improved by Tolstoy, infused with ethical sensibility. . . . This is a bracing, original work, remind us that economics was never supposed to be about the math but rather about the stories it tells about our lives.---Roger Lowenstein, The Washington Post-- "Enlightened Economist"
[Morson and Schapiro] suggest that economists could gain wisdom from reading great novelists, who have a deeper insight into people than social scientists do. Whereas economists tend to treat people as abstractions, novelists dig into the specifics. To illustrate the point, Morson and Schapiro ask, When has a scientist's model or case study drawn a person as vividly as Tolstoy drew Anna Karenina?-- "Harvard Business Review"
The authors use fresh and fascinating examples to bolster the oft-repeated claim that ethical considerations should be incorporated into the analysis of economists and policy makers. . . . Cents and Sensibility sends a powerful--and timely--message.---Glenn C. Altschuler, HuffPost-- "Harvard Business Review"
Focusing mostly on integrating exposure to great realist novels (such as Anna Karenina, Middlemarch, and War and Peace) into economics education, the authors use three case studies on, respectively, higher education, the family, and the economic development of nations to make an insightful and compelling argument. Morson and Schapiro succeed in finding new ways of thinking about big issues as well as new ways to read classic novels. . . . The case studies read like popular nonfiction. There's immense joy to be found throughout this work on thinking with creativity and passion.-- "Publishers Weekly"