Economics made fun, and made fun of: how 'fun' redefines the domain and identity of the economics profession

Journal of Economic Methodology 19 (4):427-437 (2012)
Abstract
This paper compares two aspects of the use of ?fun? within the economics profession. It analyzes the way in which a recently emerged genre of economics-made-fun uses fun and surprising insights to reach new audiences. And it also analyzes the way in which humor is used within and from outside the economics profession to criticize certain practices and characteristics of economists. It argues that the economics-made-fun genre, ?Freakonomics? being the prime example, not only redefines the domain of economics, as is widely acknowledged, but also changes the identity of economists. In a similar way, humor is used by both insiders and outsiders to (re)define the appropriate identity and domain of economists. It draws on recent work in the history of science which distinguishes between various professional identities of scientists, such as the quirky genius and the intuitive and playful amateur. We argue that Levitt and other authors within this new genre redefine the identity of economists toward this latter type. On the other hand, humor is often used by critics of this economistic outlook on life to show the limitations of this perspective and to delineate its appropriate domain
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