Is a novel a model?

Here is my paper on novels and models, forthcoming in a University of Michigan Press book.  Here is the abstract:

I defend the relevance of fiction for social science investigation. Novels can be useful for making some economic approaches — such as behavioral economics or signaling theory — more plausible. Novels are more like models than is commonly believed. Some novels present verbal models of reality. I interpret other novels as a kind of simulation, akin to how simulations are used in economics. Economics can, and has, profited from the insights contained in novels. Nonetheless, while novels and models lie along a common spectrum, they differ in many particulars. I attempt a partial account of why we sometimes look to models for understanding, and other times look to novels.

Comments of course are welcome, either by email or on the blog.  The paper was stimulated by a) Liberty Fund conferences, and b) David Levy’s query as to how a painting differed from a model.  None of us had thought to ask about cartoons…


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