Abstract

This article presents a critical systematic discussion of Shiller’s writings from the late 1970s to the present, as well as an examination of the social-psychological assumptions on which his work is built. We argue that Shiller’s work displays a tension between mimetic and anti-mimetic tendencies, i.e. between understanding financial markets as captured by fads and fashions (mimesis), and at the same time understanding such markets on the basis of a notion of homo economicus (an essentially anti-mimetic figure). Identifying that tension not only sheds novel light on Shiller’s work, but also allows us to critically discuss Mirowski’s negative appraisal of Shiller’s behavioural finance programme. Further, we argue that the mimetic/anti-mimetic tension in Shiller’s work can equally be identified in a broader range of theories about financial markets, and that attending to it therefore opens up new lines of inquiry beyond behavioural finance.

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