Robinson Crusoe's Economic Man
A Construction and Deconstruction
Edited by Ulla Grapard, Gillian Hewitson
Routledge – 2010 – 254 pages
In this book, economists and literary scholars examine the uses to which the Robinson Crusoe figure has been put by the economics discipline since the publication of Defoe’s novel in 1719. The authors’ critical readings of two centuries of texts that have made use of Robinson Crusoe undermine the pervasive belief of mainstream economics that Robinson Crusoe is a benign representative of economic agency, and that he, like other economic agents, can be understood independently of historical and cultural specificity.
The book provides a detailed account of the appearance of Robinson Crusoe in the economics literature and in a plethora of modern economics texts, in which, for example, we find Crusoe is portrayed as a schizophrenic consumer/producer trying to maximize his personal well-being. Using poststructuralist, feminist, postcolonial, Marxist and literary criticism approaches, the authors of the fourteen chapters in this volume examine and critique some of the deepest, fundamental assumptions neoclassical economics hold about human nature; the political economy of colonization; international trade; and the pervasive gendered organization of social relations.
The contributors to this volume can be seen as engaging in the emerging conversation between economists and literary scholars known as the New Economic Criticism. They offer unique perspectives on how the economy and economic thought can be read through different disciplinary lenses. Economists pay attention to rhetoric and metaphor deployed in economics, and literary scholars have found new areas to explore and understand by focusing on economic concepts and vocabulary encountered in literary texts.
1. Introduction Ulla Grapard and Gillian Hewitson Part 1: The Robinsonades: The Development of the Unencumbered Rational Economic Man 2. Reading and Rewriting: The Production of an Economic Robinson Crusoe Michael V. White 3. Robinson Crusoe and the Secret of Primitive Accumulation Stephen Hymer 4. Robinson Crusoe and the Economists William S. Kern 5. Robinson Crusoe and the Subject of Economics Antonio Callari Part 2: The Quintessential Rational Economic Man: Feminist Interrogations 6. Robinson Crusoe: The Quintessential Economic Man? Ulla Grapard 7. Robinson Crusoe: The Paradigmatic ‘Rational Economic Man’ Gillian J. Hewitson 8. Family Troubles Brian Cooper 9. Economic Man Lost in Space Ulla Grapard and Gillian Hewitson 10. Robinson Crusoe and the Female Goddesses of Disorder Christine Owen Part 3: The Quintessential Rational Economic Man: Postcolonial Interrogations 11. Towards a Friday Model of International Trade Melanie Samson 12. Mercantilism and Criminal Transportation Anna Neill 13. What Would an African Student make of Robinson Crusoe? Eiman Zein-Elabdin 14. J.M. Coetzee’s Foe: the ‘Amazement of Reading’ Nicole Bracker
Ulla Grapard is Associate Professor at Colgate University, USA, where she teaches economics and women’s studies. A founding member of IAFFE, the International Association For Feminist Economics, her research concerns feminist critiques of economic theory and practice from a postmodern perspective.
Gillian Hewitson is a Lecturer in the Department of Political Economy at the University of Sydney, Australia, where she teaches in feminist economics, heterodox economics and the political economy of development. Her research is located at the intersection of feminist economics, postcolonialism and economics and the history of economic thought.