The Wild Card: Animal Spirits and American Economic Life

  • Starts: 4:00 pm on Wednesday, October 16, 2013
  • Ends: 6:30 pm on Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Professor Jackson Lears of Rutgers University gives a public lecture as part of the fall CRC lecture series. The concept of self-interest emerged in the 18th century, recasting avarice in the neutral language of utility, underwriting a benign if unheroic shopkeeper's ethos. But it always had a wilder side, encompassing the frenzied speculation and extravagant consumption that were essential to the expansion of American capitalism. By the early 20th century, thinkers on both sides of the Atlantic recognized that economic growth required periodic infusions of visceral vitality--what John Maynard Keynes, summarizing several decades of modernist vitalism in 1936 called "animal spirits." 20th century advertising assimilated vitalism to its creed of insatiable consumption. Yet animal spirits could still remain detached from market discipline, could still promote reckless generosity and serious play. The vitalist impulse remained the wild card in the history of American economic life. Sponsored by the College of Communication and the Division of Emerging Media Studies. Co-sponsored by the Department of History and the Department of International Relations.
The Castle, 225 Bay State Road