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Dead PledgesDebt, Crisis, and Twenty-First-Century Culture$
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Annie McClanahan

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780804799058

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804799058.001.0001

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Behavioral Economics and the Credit-Crisis Novel

Behavioral Economics and the Credit-Crisis Novel

(p.21) 1 Behavioral Economics and the Credit-Crisis Novel
Dead Pledges

Annie McClanahan

Stanford University Press

Chapter 1 analyzes novelistic representations of the 2008 credit crisis. Focusing on Jonathan Dee’s The Privileges, Adam Haslett’s Union Atlantic, and Martha McPhee’s Dear Money, it reads the post-crisis novel’s interest in individual psychology alongside and against the rise of behavioral economics. Behavioral economists understand the financial crisis as a consequence of individual choices and cultural climates: from excessive optimism and irrational exuberance to greed and overweening self-interest. At once mirroring and refuting these explanations, the post-credit-crisis novel reveals a deep ambivalence about the model of psychological complexity that undergirds both novelistic character and behavioralist economics. Exploring these problems through experiments with narrative perspective, these post-crisis novels suggest that the rich, full, autonomous homines economici of both the realist novel and microeconomic theory are bankrupt.

Keywords:   contemporary novel, behavioral economics, microeconomics, individualism, realist form, irrational exuberance

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