Towards a Narrative Theory of Political Agency

18 Pages Posted: 17 Nov 2009

Date Written: June 3, 2009


This paper begins to develop a narrative theory of political agency. The financial crisis of 2008 has stirred new interest in the way that narratives define, channel and motivate human action. Stories about property windfalls raised the expectations of investors and seemed to confirm the conventional wisdom that real estate always outperforms the stock market. Akerlof and Shiller have recently argued that homo economicus is driven not by reason, but by his ‘animal spirits’ that defy rationality but nevertheless give form and shape to economic interaction. In place of a knowledge of the future, actors substitute narrative in the form of anecdotes, histories and counterfactuals. I will show how the literary criticism of Northrop Frye ought to be of interest to economists and political scientists alike because he argues that deeply rooted frames of reference influence the expectations and goals of both individuals and social groups. This idea might allow interest in narrative to cross the ontological and epistemological divides between behavioural economics and international political economy because it offers an approach to understanding narrative that benefits the study of groups as well as individuals.

Keywords: political science methods, narrative, behavioral economics

JEL Classification: A12, A14

Suggested Citation

Froese, Marc D., Towards a Narrative Theory of Political Agency (June 3, 2009). Available at SSRN: or

Marc D. Froese (Contact Author)

Burman University ( email )

6730 University Drive
Lacombe, Alberta T4L 2E5

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