Loneliness and alienation are central themes in the work of French novelist Michel Houellebecq. His works Whatever (1998) and The Possibility of an Island (2004, hereafter TPI), which will be our central focus here, explore the extent to which man can be an island, or indeed is made into an island by modern society. The protagonists of his novels are invariably incapable of establishing meaningful bonds with others, and Houellebecq questions the very possibility of love: “She had certainly been capable of love; she wished to still be capable of it, I'll say that for her; but it was no longer possible. A scarce, artificial and belated phenomenon, love can only blossom under certain mental conditions, rarely conjoined, and totally opposed to the freedom of morals which characterizes the modern era”, he writes in Whatever (Houellebecq 1998: 112-113). Loneliness and alienation are themes which are normally far from (mainstream) economics and management studies. Such themes seem far from the concerns of the economist or the management scholar, but this essay will argue the contrary. It will argue that there are close parallels between the homo economicus of economic textbooks, the individual maximizing his own pleasure, and the protagonists of Houellebecq’s novels in Whatever and TPI. But also, and this is where it gets interesting, the way in which Nobel- Prize winning economist James Buchanan has attempted to move beyond this figure of homo economicus has close parallels in those novels. Or to turn it around, the explorations of Houellebecq to explore what neohumans are in his novel TPI is an attempt to imagine a meaningful individual life are similar to the attempts in economics to move beyond the figure of homo economicus. It is an unlikely pairing, an American economist from the south who had romantic notions about rural life, and a dystopian Parisian novelist. But what they tell us about humans and what they aspire to in life is surprisingly similar. [...]

M@n@gement : Revue officielle de l'Association Internationale de Management Stratégique
Department of History

Dekker, E. (2017). Aspirational individuals in the work of Michel Houellebecq and James Buchanan. M@n@gement : Revue officielle de l'Association Internationale de Management Stratégique, 20(3), 303–308. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1765/102293