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The Capitalist Hero in Fiction and Film

November 28, 2013 in Economics

By Mises Updates


Edward Younkins has recently published Exploring Capitalist fiction: Business Through Literature and Film

Younkins’ new book examines the themes, plots, and conflicts in more than 20 novels, films and plays, and discusses the role of capitalism within each. According to Younkins’ introduction:

The use of works of imaginative literature to portray and explain the behavior of individuals in business is arguably a method that is richer and more realistic than what is presented in journal articles, textbooks, and even cases. Literature and films allow the asking of more complex questions than case studies do. Business cases can be complex, but not to the same extent as multifaceted novels, plays, and films. People can learn as much, if not more, about the nature and culture of business and effective management as from lectures, books, case studies, and so on.

Fiction provides a powerful teaching tool to sensitize business students without business experience and to educate and train managers in real businesses. Studying business literature and films can prepare students for future situations that they have not encountered before when they enter the workplace. Many works of imaginative fiction present ethical dilemmas that Introduction 3 young professionals may potentially encounter at some point in their careers.

Literary works and movies can play a significant role both in college classrooms and in management development programs. Not only is business fiction interactive, it portrays a more complete and more human picture of the business world than what is communicated through traditional teaching materials. Fiction brings values to life and is also useful i bridging the gap between theory and practice.

The overall literary and cinematic treatment accorded capitalism, business, and businessmen has been unkind, hostile, and unflattering over the years. The commercial world has received bad press at the hands of many novelists, playwrights, and filmmakers. Fortunately, there are also a number of sympathetic business portraits that depict commerce in a more favorable, even heroic, image. Viable capitalist heroes have appeared in a number of works that emphasize the virtues, positive traits, and accomplishments of businessmen. Some feature brilliant, thoughtful, and dauntless business leaders and employees, including King Vidor’s 1944 film An American Romance, William Dea Howells’ The Rise of Silas Lapham, and Cameron Hawley’s Cash McCall.

Other examples include of course Garet Garrett’s The Driver, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, and Henry Hazlitt’s Time Will Run Back.

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