Monday, April 22, 2013

Michael Suk-Young Chwe

From an interview with UCLA political science professor Michael Suk-Young Chwe about his new book, Jane Austen, Game Theorist:

How did you get interested in Jane Austen?

I saw the movie Clueless (with Alicia Silverstone) with my kids a while ago (incidentally, the film includes a scene nearby our house), and Clueless was based on Austen's Emma. When I read Emma, I was surprised to see how much game-theoretic reasoning Austen engaged in. I then read the other novels and began to see how Austen developed a theory of strategic thinking: how people take actions anticipating the actions of others.

What do you mean exactly by strategic thinking?

For example, at the very beginning of Pride and Prejudice, Mrs. Bennet sends her daughter Jane off to Netherfield on horseback because she anticipates that because of the rain, Mr. Bingley and Caroline will ask Jane to stay all night, thus increasing Jane's acquaintance with Mr. Bingley. Mrs. Bennet takes an action (having Jane go on horseback) anticipating the action of the Bingleys (they will ask Jane to stay). Strategic thinking is the essence of manipulation, and indeed Elizabeth Bennet calls her mother's action a "good scheme."

Austen's novels are full of manipulation and scheming, aren't they?

Yes, in fact there are over fifty strategic manipulations specifically called "schemes" in her novels. Austen is obsessed with...[read on]
Listen to the interview.

Visit the Jane Austen, Game Theorist website.

--Marshal Zeringue