Why Economists Need the Arts

Engaging in music, literature and the arts is essential for understanding context and human behavior—which economists so often miss

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The study of humanities is often considered an impractical pursuit—a luxury endeavor only the rich can afford. But having a deep understanding of the arts is in fact highly practical: It confers critical thinking and relational skills necessary to succeed in any field, including and especially economics. So says Christian Madsbjerg, Partner at ReD Associates in his book, Author of Sensemaking: The Power of Humanities in the Age of the Algorithm.

“Human beings aren’t described very well by the fundamental assumptions of economics,” says Madsbjerg. Could that change if more economists delved into literature, music, poetry, philosophy and art? “Dealing with humanity is not black of white, 0s and 1s,” Madjberg says. “It’s grey tones in between,” he says, and reckoning with that complexity and uncertainty is precisely what’s needed now.

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