Literature and economics
Intuitively, the link between literature and economics is not expressly apparent. Following an analysis of the two disciplines, my assertion is that these two fields are inextricably linked. Literature serves as a reflection of a nation’s economic status and that it is the engine of economic progress.
Historically and currently, the two disciplines of economic thought and literary discourse have been directly intertwined and proportionate. Evidence of this can be found in the writings of the Vedic people of Indo-Europe (c. 1500 BC), the ancient texts of Judaic civilization and the documents of Greek history – all of which serve as the what are now referred to as “humanistic economics” – a perspective that infuses elements of humanistic psychology, moral philosophy, political science, sociology and common sense into mainstream economic thought.
It would not be exaggerating the significance of literature to say that the basis of civilization, as we know it, is rooted in literature. Speaking of the centrality of literature in a nation’s culture, one recalls the words of American author, Ray Bradbury, who said, “You don’t need to burn books to destroy a culture. Just keep people from reading each other.” Literature has played (and continues to play) a central role in the evolution of society. Literary thought has served as the foundation for religions, philosophies, arts and culture. -same.
Throughout contemporary history, literature has also served as a tool of revolution – think: Mao’s “Little Red Book”, which helped lift China out of its “Century of Humiliation”, until become the regional superpower it is today. Britain’s Industrial Revolution history is also replete with highly influential literary works – writings such as Charles Dickens’ ‘Hard Times’, Daniel Defoe’s ‘Robinson Crusoe’ and Maria Edgeworth’s ‘Ennui’, which have helped shaping public discourse in this time of great upheaval.
The same goes for the French and Russian revolutions. The revolutionary literature of the subcontinent during the British occupation – which needs no introduction – also followed the same pattern, where public consciousness was awakened by literature, by knowledge, by narratives, by inspiration; and after decades of hard struggle, lasting changes have been made. The rest, as they say, is history. The indigenous literature of Pakistan, which has its roots in the literary traditions of the subcontinent and South Asia, came into its own when Pakistan became a nation.
The new nation-state inherited a rich literary and cultural heritage and within a few years a considerable body of literary works began to take shape in all major Pakistani languages: Punjabi, Urdu, English, Pashto, Sindhi, Siraiki, Farsi and Baloch. In the years immediately following the partition of the subcontinent, Pakistan’s literary output was heavily focused on internalizing the prevailing socio-economic troubles of the time. Gradually, narratives became more progressive, and Pakistani literature evolved to merge the diverse linguistic forms and literary styles indigenous to the region, highlighting the complex class system, social issues and concerns, and continuing economic forces. to shape life. of all Pakistanis.
The rise of today’s economic powers, America, Japan, Germany, over the past three centuries has occurred largely through technological, social and cultural innovation – which has its roots in academia and literature. Literature serves as a window into human economic life and provides illustrations of ‘economic theories in action’. Literature enables audiences to connect emotionally to people’s experiences, with regard to products, markets, class divisions, as well as their roles as consumers, workers and producers.
My claim today is that economic discourse is (and always has been) rooted in the thinking of great literary authors; their far-reaching contributions continue to shape economic decision-making today. Consider, for example, the base and superstructure theory of Marxism, “Base” refers to the forces of production (materials and resources that generate the goods needed by a society), while “Superstructure” describes all other aspects of society, such as ideology, culture, philosophy, art and of course literature.
Marx astutely observed that the base shapes the superstructure and the superstructure maintains the base – thus establishing a strong link between the economy of a nation-state and its literary production. The influence of literature extends not only to financial economics, but also to political economy. Opinion leaders such as John Stuart Mill, Adam Smith and Max Weber gave birth to entire systems of political thought and discourse through their literary output. It would be remiss to elaborate further on the link between literature and economics without mentioning the concept of “narrative economies”, by Yale economist Robert Shiller.
Narrative Economies is interested in “the study of the diffusion and dynamics of popular narratives; stories, especially those of human interest and emotion, and how these change over time, to understand economic fluctuations. The literature provides a new perspective on the questions of the economist by highlighting the socio-cultural context in which the public and the economy evolve. Well-rounded professionals from the disciplines of the humanities (especially literature and art) offer new perspectives to companies and their modus operandi. Rather than adopting a purely theoretical position, policies should instead be aligned with the experiences of the people they intend to serve.
In this way, policy frameworks will be tempered with a nuanced understanding of human behavior. And to that end, nothing is more valuable than literature. To understand (and thereby change) existing economic realities, it is becoming increasingly clear that technical expertise is not enough….Storytelling and storytelling provide the insight and power to change the world. We at Bank of Punjab remain committed to doing our part for all that matters to uplift our future generations and ensure the sustainability of our society’s well-being and prosperity; supporting all activities that are important to the development of a community and its socio-economic landscape – even activities that are not traditionally seen as impacting the economy (and therefore are not on the radar of commercial organizations).
Efforts such as the prestigious literary festivals in Karachi and Lahore are essential to the development of a society as a whole and, by extension, to the development of its economy. The Bank of Punjab is proud to have been the title sponsor of these auspicious festivals and wishes to extend its support for these activities across the country for uniform progress and growth at all levels.
My thesis above is to prove that the promotion of literature, art and culture has a direct impact on the economic well-being and sustainable growth of any nation, which ultimately benefits to its commercial organisations; they just have to be patient and forward-looking. With this awareness and recognition, it is absolutely imperative that business organizations, like The Bank of Punjab, intensify and wholeheartedly support these literary pursuits, for the building of character and the betterment of our future generations.
THE WRITER IS THE PRESIDENT AND CEO OF BANK OF PUNJAB