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Capitalism and Society

A Journal of the Center on Capitalism and Society

Ed. by Phelps, Edmund / Bhidé, Amar

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2014: 0.285
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2014: 1.534
Impact per Publication (IPP) 2014: 1.000

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Animal Spirits Revisited

Alexander Dow
  • Glasgow Caledonian University
/ Sheila C. Dow
  • University of Stirling
Published Online: 2011-12-09 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2202/1932-0213.1087

The term ‘animal spirits’ has returned to academic and public discourse in a way which departs significantly from the original use of the term by Keynes. The new behavioural economics literature uses the term to refer to a range of behaviour which falls outside what is normally understood as rational. This treatment follows from the mainstream dichotomisation between rationality and irrationality. However, Keynes explained that, given fundamental uncertainty, rationality alone was insufficient to justify action. Animal spirits was the name he gave to the (psychological) urge to action which explained decisions being taken in spite of uncertainty; animal spirits for him were neither rational nor irrational. Nor are they beyond analysis. We explore how the nature and role of animal spirits can vary according to context (as between different sectors, types of firm and within firms). This analysis indicates ways in which policy can promote structural change to strengthen animal spirits in the long term as well as offset short-term weakening in animal spirits.

Keywords: animal spirits; rationality; Keynes

About the article

Published Online: 2011-12-09

Citation Information: Capitalism and Society, ISSN (Online) 1932-0213, DOI: https://doi.org/10.2202/1932-0213.1087. Export Citation

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