Freakonomics (Magill's Literary Annual 2006)
Steven Levitt obviously overstates the breadth of his work in the subtitle of Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, but he can be forgiven in his zealousness. He claims to be founding “freakonomics” as a new field of study, one that asks unusual questions that others fail to see or to embrace. Within that context, a claim that freakonomics explores “the hidden side of everything” is not so exaggerated, and social scientists within many disciplinespolitical science, sociology, and economics among themhave attempted to construct overarching theories that capture most of what they see as the important dimensions of the world. Within this volume, however, Levitt explores only a few topics to illustrate the kinds of issues that can be addressed using his approach.
In stepping outside what are commonly accepted as the boundaries of the field of economics, Levitt actually steps back a century or two into the past. Before economics was recognized as a discipline in its own right, it was part of what was called political economy, which encompassed both politics and economics, among other areas. Even further back, the types of questions Levitt studies were considered part of “moral theory”; Adam Smith, now recognized as one of the key figures in early economics, also wrote on what he called the theory of moral sentiments. Levitt seems to acknowledge this history, at least subtly: The table of contents for...
(The entire section is 1840 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 2006)
America 193, no. 6 (September 12, 2005): 25.
Booklist 101, no. 18 (May 15, 2005): 1622.
Commentary 120, no. 1 (July/August, 2005): 67-69.
The Economist 375 (May 14, 2005): 85-86.
Kirkus Reviews 73, no. 6 (March 15, 2005): 337-338.
Library Journal 130, no. 8 (May 1, 2005): 98.
The New York Times Book Review 154 (May 15, 2005): 12.
Publishers Weekly 252, no. 11 (March 14, 2005): 53-54.
(The entire section is 36 words.)