In Austrian economic thought, “human action” guides all social and cultural experience. For both the real world and for fictional texts, this starting point can illuminate literature in new ways and offer valuable insight for literary critics who have previously been beholden to Marxism and other anti-capitalist perspectives. In Re-Reading Economics in Literature: A Capitalist Critical Perspective, Matt Spivey posits that in its relationship to literature, Austrian economic criticism entails a methodology that embraces the following: 1) an analytical reading that promotes both the individual artist as the creator of literature and the individual reader as the consumer of literature; 2) an understanding of the entrepreneurial quality of literature, that capitalism is a system that embraces creativity and evolution in the marketplace; and 3) a recognition of subjective value as fundamental to human choice and action, both in art and in the real world. In addition to the study of the individual, Spivey also incorporates the concepts of business cycles, government intervention, social dynamics, and technological evolution in his analysis. Scholars of literary studies and economics will find this book particularly useful.
Matt Spivey is professor of English and chair of the Department of English and Modern Languages at Arizona Christian University.
1: The Austrian School of Economic Literary Criticism
2: The Power of Human Capital in Frederick Douglass’s Narrative
3: Gatsby, Daisy, and the Austrian Business Cycle
4: “The Monster’s Sick”: Rural Economics in The Grapes of Wrath
5: Bigger’s World: Urban Economics in Native Son
6: Rage Against the Machine: Kurt Vonnegut’s Player Piano
For a while I feared that the Austrian economics and literature movement had petered out. Thank God that Matt Spivey has revitalized it with this important and exciting work.
Re-Reading Economics in Literature provides a welcome breath of fresh air in its field. At a time when literary criticism dealing with economics is routinely and dogmatically anti-capitalist, Spivey has the audacity to use a wide variety of American literature to make a positive case for free enterprise and limited government. In a highlight of the book, we learn the story that John Steinbeck left out of The Grapes of Wrath—that FDR’s ham-fisted agricultural policies did more to hurt American farmers than anything the supposedly evil bankers did.