Questioning the Dominant Narrative in Economics

Precis of Narrative Fixation in Economics by Edward Fullbrook

Classic economics diagram. Classic omission of the environment and women’s work, among other things.

Closed Narrative

  • Double-bind situations where a person is socialized to act in a way that conflicts with neoclassical “rationality,” such as African-Americans expected to live in one part of town even when they don’t want to.
  • Social being: a person may care about others so much that they don’t simply act as a free economic agent.
  • Reciprocal imitation: investors often buy not because they believe something to have value, but because they think others believe it has value.
  • Self-referential goods are things that people will spend money on just so everyone else can see they spent money on it, which is surprisingly common in beverages and apparel.
  • Spontaneity is a common part of the human experience that often conflicts with neoclassical rationality.
  • Adventure also motivates people, and hinges on unknown outcomes as in trying new foods, travel, and watching sports
  • Free choice does not really exist in neoclassical reasoning, because there is always a right answer for an actor. When someone wants to make a choice for some reason not obvious to an economist, they will probably appear to be “irrational.”
Seven categories of decision behavior that neoclassical economics considers irrational (123).
  • Transitivity is the assumption that if a person prefers A to B and B to C, then they always prefer A to C.
  • Completeness is the assumption that each person always has a preference about everything.
  • Independence is the assumption that each person makes decisions independently, not just following the next cow in front of them.


These are definitely the best pages from the whole book! This is bold and fun intellectual history, showing the Harlem Reinassance’s role in kindling the fire of Feminism, which would later surge far past it. Also amazing: this pearl of radical theory for social justice is in a book by an economist! (81–83)


Why Did Economists Do This?



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