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Robinson Crusoe: The quintessential economic man?


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  • Ulla Grapard
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    The tale of Robinson Crusoe strikes a responsive chord in the imagination of many economists. This paper argues that the story of Robinson Crusoe, and the joy economists take in his example, are indicative of the way the discipline deals with issues of race and gender. Crusoe is used to represent homo economics par excellence, yet his self-sufficiency conceals the labor of others. A close reading of the novel reveals the issues of power, sexuality and race that are hidden underneath the storyline of Crusoe's relationship with Friday. The economists' portrait of equal exchange ignores the elements of domination and exploitation between Crusoe and Friday. The absence of female agency in Defoe's and the economists' story masks a narrative structure that, in fact, relies in fundamental ways on gendered representations. This process of exclusion mirrors the lack of recognition in our culture of the economic contribution of women. If Crusoe is taken to be the quintessential economic man, the economists' story imposes boundaries separating those who belong in economic discourse from those who do not. It also makes it easier for our discipline to avoid the ethical burden of addressing the disturbing issues of race and gender in our narratives.

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    Article provided by Taylor & Francis Journals in its journal Feminist Economics.

    Volume (Year): 1 (1995)
    Issue (Month): 1 ()
    Pages: 33-52

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    Handle: RePEc:taf:femeco:v:1:y:1995:i:1:p:33-52

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    Keywords: Robinson Crusoe; homo economics; self-sufficiency; economic narrative; storytelling; sexism; racism;


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    Cited by:
    1. Gillian Hewitson, 2001. "A Survey of Feminist Economics," Working Papers, School of Economics, La Trobe University 2001.01, School of Economics, La Trobe University.
    2. Todorova, Zdravka, 2014. "From Monetary Theory of Production to Culture-Nature Life Process:Feminist-Institutional Elaborations of Social Provisioning," MPRA Paper 54681, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Tony Lawson, 1999. "Feminism, Realism, and Universalism," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 5(2), pages 25-59.
    4. Zdravka, Todorova, 2009. "Employer of Last Resort Policy and Feminist Economics: Social Provisioning and Socialization of Investment," MPRA Paper 16240, University Library of Munich, Germany.


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