Jane Austen, Game Theorist
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Jane Austen, Game Theorist
illustration by Sonny Liew

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Princeton University Press

Michael Chwe

Michael Chwe
Department of Political Science

Bibliography of Jane Austen, Game Theorist
(pdf files of all the papers referenced)
“Whether you’re an intelligent strategic thinker or a clueless bureaucrat, this book will teach and delight you. The merger of game theory and Jane Austen, with extended examples from African American folklore and U.S. foreign policy, provides the best study I know of motive and cluelessness. Michael Chwe, a rare breed of political scientist, has raised the game of two disciplines. This is a genuinely interdisciplinary work that avoids the reductionism of much game theory and the provincialism of many Austen admirers.”
Regenia Gagnier, author of The Insatiability of Human Wants: Economics and Aesthetics in Market Society

“Michael Chwe shows that Jane Austen is a strategic analyst—a game theorist whose characters exercise strategic thinking. Game theorists usually study war, business, crime and punishment, diplomacy, politics, and one-upmanship. Jane Austen studies social advancement, romantic relationships, and even gamesmanship. Game theorists will enjoy this venture into unfamiliar territory, while Jane Austen fans will enjoy being illuminated about their favorite author’s strategic acumenand learn a little game theory besides.”
Thomas C. Schelling, Nobel Laureate in Economics

“Jane Austen’s novels provide wonderful examples of strategic thinking in the lives of ordinary people. In Jane Austen, Game Theorist, Michael Chwe brilliantly brings out these strategies, and Austen’s intuitive game-theoretic analysis of these situations and actions. This book will transform the way you read literature.”
Avinash Dixit, coauthor of The Art of Strategy: A Game Theorist's Guide to Success in Business and Life

“Jane Austen, game theorist?! You will cry, how absurd! But you will be wrong. Michael Chwe’s beautifully written and argued book makes the case, crushingly, that Our Jane was fascinated by human prudent interaction—what the game theorists call strategy. Based on deep familiarity with the novels and their scholarly literature, his book will instruct and delight both literary critics and economists. Combining the humanities and social sciences for mutual illumination, Chwe practices a ‘humanomics’ masterfully.”
Deirdre N. McCloskey, University of Illinois, Chicago

“It would be useful for everyone to understand a little bit more about strategic thinking. Jane Austen seems not only to get this, but to explore it obsessively. Looking at Austen and other works, this persuasive book shows that the game theory in historical sources is not inherently opposed to humanistic thinking, but embedded within it.”
Laura J. Rosenthal, University of Maryland

“Polished, organized, and well-documented, this book demonstrates the existence of well-defined game theory in historical texts. Jane Austen, in particular, develops a clear model of strategic thinking in her novels. Michael Chwe shows the efficacy and pitfalls of such thinking in her characters’ actions, and in their perceptions and understanding of the actions of others. An enjoyable read.”

“Jane Austen, Game Theorist . . . goes much beyond its seeming ambit and blends two very different subjects—game theory and literature—delightfully. . . . It will not be an exaggeration to say that after Thomas Schelling’s The Strategy of Conflict, this is one book that imparts realism to game theory again.”
—Siddharth Singh, Mint

“Austen devotees will probably enjoy the many pages of painstaking precis in which Chwe reveals the strategic thinking of one character after another. Often he is acute, showing in slow-motion detail, for instance, how, in Mansfield Park, the supposedly unworldly Fanny Price grows into a deft ‘strategist’, quite fit to compete with sly Mary Crawford. Game theory starts with the idea of the human being as a choice-maker, and Chwe is right to think that this chimes with Austen.”
—John Mullan, The Guardian

“I started by reading ‘chapter one: the argument’ and I am already hooked. This book presents an unlikely marriage between literature and mathematical thinking, written long before game theory became a formalised area of research. This is such a fabulous book—carefully written, thoughtful and insightful—that I imagine that it is already in use in a college course. In fact, I would very much like to register for that course.”
—GrrlScientist, The Guardian

“Jane Austen, Game Theorist . . . is more than the larky scholarly equivalent of ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.’. . . Mr. Chwe argues that Austen isn’t merely fodder for game-theoretical analysis, but an unacknowledged founder of the discipline itself: a kind of Empire-waisted version of the mathematician and cold war thinker John von Neumann, ruthlessly breaking down the stratagems of 18th-century social warfare.”
—Jennifer Schuessler, New York Times

The most interesting part of the book for me was about why, indeed, there are people who do not strategise. . . . [I]t has often amazed me how unstrategic most people are, especially in business. It is harder, a bit, to think about how other people will react to your actions and choices, but not that hard. Jane Austen, Game Theorist should join the list of strategic classics like The Art of War, or the good how-to game theory guides like Dixit and Nalebuff’s Thinking Strategically, on the shelf of everybody who wants to be effective in life.”
—Diane Coyle, The Enlightened Economist