Abstract

Abstract:

This essay begins a cultural history of the behavioral economic narrative mode in American popular media, in relation to the academic discipline but not coincident with it. From podcasts to Michael Lewis's books and films, the behavioral economic mode of narration changes the character or figure of economic knowledge. Instead of the distant financial expert, this mode insists on the authority of the friendly explainer. In the years around the 2008 crisis, at a moment when financial scandals seemed to be losing their power to scandalize, this mode asserted behavioral economic knowledge as the new standard of realism. As the affective structures beneath earlier capitalist realist narratives diminished in power, the behavioral economic turn marked a reassertion of narrative authority. The behavioral mode instantiated a new relationship to a familiar misogyny and is perhaps best understood as a cultural shift with varied ideological commitments to economic philosophy itself. The behavioral economic mode is characterized by scenes of objectivity training or moments where the viewer or reader is trained to understand objectivity as a performance of distance from the subject's gender or race. Not incidentally, this performance is demanded specifically of those who do not fit the neoclassical ideal of the rational agent and who are not white and not male.

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