Robinson Crusoe stories were and are extensively used in neoclassical economics. The behavior of neoclassical Robinson Crusoe, however, is at odds both with that of Defoe's hero, the original Robinson Crusoe, and that of real-world castaways. Only the early neoclassicals can be criticized for these contradictions because they intended to explain the behavior of their isolated individuals, whereas modern neoclassicals only seek to describe the decisions of Robinson Crusoe in terms of modern choice theory. This contrast mirrors the change in the way utility theory is conceived—no longer as a means to explain behavior but only as a means to describe it. It is argued that Robinson Crusoe and homo economicus are closely related and that, therefore, the Robinson Crusoe stories afford insights into the development of neoclassical economics and the problems resulting from its reliance upon the isolated-individual paradigm.
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Fritz Söllner; The Use (and Abuse) of Robinson Crusoe in Neoclassical Economics. History of Political Economy 1 March 2016; 48 (1): 35–64. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00182702-3452291
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