Jane Austen, Game Theorist

Author(s): Michael Suk-Young Chwe


Game theory--the study of how people make choices while interacting with others--is one of the most popular technical approaches in social science today. But as Michael Chwe reveals in his insightful new book, Jane Austen explored game theory's core ideas in her six novels roughly two hundred years ago. Jane Austen, Game Theorist shows how this beloved writer theorized choice and preferences, prized strategic thinking, argued that jointly strategizing with a partner is the surest foundation for intimacy, and analyzed why superiors are often strategically clueless about inferiors. With a diverse range of literature and folktales, this book illustrates the wide relevance of game theory and how, fundamentally, we are all strategic thinkers. Although game theory's mathematical development began in the Cold War 1950s, Chwe finds that game theory has earlier subversive historical roots in Austen's novels and in "folk game theory" traditions, including African American folktales. Chwe makes the case that these literary forebears are game theory's true scientific predecessors.
He considers how Austen in particular analyzed "cluelessness"--the conspicuous absence of strategic thinking--and how her sharp observations apply to a variety of situations, including U.S. military blunders in Iraq and Vietnam. Jane Austen, Game Theorist brings together the study of literature and social science in an original and surprising way.


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Michael Suk-Young Chwe is associate professor of political science at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the author of "Rational Ritual: Culture, Coordination, and Common Knowledge" (Princeton).

Preface xi Abbreviations xiii CHAPTER ONE The Argument 1 CHAPTER TWO Game Theory in Context 9 Rational Choice Theory 9 Game Theory 12 Strategic Thinking 15 How Game Theory Is Useful 19 Criticisms 25 Game Theory and Literature 30 CHAPTER THREE Folktales and Civil Rights 35 CHAPTER FOUR Flossie and the Fox 43 CHAPTER FIVE Jane Austen's Six Novels 49 Pride and Prejudice 50 Sense and Sensibility 54 Persuasion 60 Northanger Abbey 67 Mansfield Park 75 Emma 86 CHAPTER SIX Austen's Foundations of Game Theory 97 Choice 97 Preferences 102 Revealed Preferences 105 Names for Strategic Thinking 107 Strategic Sophomores 111 Eyes 113 CHAPTER SEVEN Austen's Competing Models 115 Emotions 115 Instincts 119 Habits 121 Rules 124 Social Factors 127 Ideology 128 Intoxication 130 Constraints 130 CHAPTER EIGHT Austen on What Strategic Thinking Is Not 133 Strategic Thinking Is Not Selfish 133 Strategic Thinking Is Not Moralistic 134 Strategic Thinking Is Not Economistic 135 Strategic Thinking Is Not About Winning Inconsequential Games 137 CHAPTER NINE Austen's Innovations 141 Partners in Strategic Manipulation 141 Strategizing About Yourself 153 Preference Change 158 Constancy 167 CHAPTER TEN Austen on Strategic Thinking's Disadvantages 171 CHAPTER ELEVEN Austen's Intentions 179 CHAPTER TWELVE Austen on Cluelessness 188 Lack of Natural Ability 188 Social Distance 198 Excessive Self-Reference 200 High-Status People Are Not Supposed to Enter the Minds of Low-Status People 202 Presumption Sometimes Works 205 Decisive Blunders 205 CHAPTER THIRTEEN Real-World Cluelessness 211 Cluelessness Is Easier 211 Difficulty Embodying Low-Status Others 213 Investing in Social Status 217 Improving Your Bargaining Position 219 Empathy Prevention 224 Calling People Animals 225 CHAPTER FOURTEEN Concluding Remarks 228 References 235 Index 251

General Fields

  • : 9780691155760
  • : Princeton University Press
  • : Princeton University Press
  • : May 2013
  • : 229mm X 152mm X 28mm
  • : United States
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Michael Suk-Young Chwe
  • : Hardback
  • : 823.7
  • : 276
  • : 5 line illus. 9 tables.