Sociology of Art and Literature–Berger, Morroe (Novel and Social Science)

Updated February 12, 2020

Socio-economics of the arts and literature, or cultural economics, is a field that studies the economics of creation, distribution, and the consumption of works of art, literature and similar creative and cultural products.

For a long time, the concept of the “arts” were confined to visual arts (e.g., painting) and performing arts (music, theatre, dance) in the Anglo-Saxon tradition. Usage has widened since the 1980s with the study of cultural industry (cinema, television programs, book and music periodical publishing) and the economy of cultural institutions (museums, libraries, historic buildings).

The field is coded as JEL: Z11 in the Journal of Economic Literature


Barbu, Z. “Sociological Perspectives in Art and Literature.” In Creedy.

Berger, Morroe. Real and Imagined Worlds: The Novel and Social Science. Harvard University Press, 1977.

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Charvat, William. The Profession of Authorship in America. Ohio State University Press, 1968.

Creedy, J.  The Social Context of Art. London, 1970.

Desan, Philippe. Priscilla Parkhurst Ferguson, Wendy Griswold (eds). Literature and Social Practice.  University of Chicago Press, 1989.

Gombrich, E.W. Art and Illusion.  A Study on the Psychology of Pictorial Representation.  Princeton Univ. Press,  1961.

Gombrich, E.W. The Sense of Order: A Study in the Psychology of Decorative Art. Cornell Univ Press, 1979.

Weber, Jean-Paul.  The Psychology of Art. (French). N.Y.: Delacorte Press, 1963.

Wilson, Robert N. (ed). The Arts in Society. 1969

Wilson, Robert N. The Writer as Social Seer.  University of N. Carolina  Press, 1979. 228 pp. Eight writers of 20th century: Fitzgerald, Hemingway, O’Neill, Miller, Baldwin, Camus, Brecht.

Berger, Morroe. Real and Imagined Worlds: The Novel and Social Science. Harvard University Press, 1977.

To show how the imagined world of the storyteller informs us about the real world of experience, a social scientist brings the perspective of his discipline to bear on two and a half centuries of fiction.

Under his scrutiny, the novel reveals a wealth of insight into sociological, historical, and political phenomena.

Morroe Berger illustrates his points with an extraordinary range of novels in Europe and America, from Defoe to Forster and Golding.

The interaction between the novel and social science started in the eighteenth century, when these two ways of examining human behavior and social life achieved their modern form. Writers of fiction broadened their outlook to take in social class and touched upon other issues that are still very much alive, such as individualism, marriage, and the status of women.

The novelist is no intruder among historians and social scientists, but rather has been focusing on the same landscape through a different lens.

Berger demonstrates that the novel has enriched our understanding of political power, class, law, cultural conflict, and interpersonal relations. He compares Fielding’s fiction with Mandeville’s essays in the eighteenth century, and Silone’s novels of power and bureaucracy with social scientists’ treatments of these themes in the twentieth.

He points out how such novels as Robinson Crusoe and Lord of the Flies amplify the theory of the social contract. And he examines the clash of cultures as portrayed in the novel of colonial life.

Balzac’s zoology and Zola’s experimental novel are cases in point.

He reviews the long-standing dispute between science and literature in the writings of C. P. Snow.