Financial Education, Literary Fiction, and Corporate Social Responsibility

  • Maria Teresa Bosch BadiaEmail author
  • Joan Montllor-Serrats
  • Maria-Antonia Tarrazon-Rodon
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Governance, Leadership and Responsibility book series (PSGLR)


The roots of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) lie in the sensitivity to environmental and social sustainability. This sensitivity obviously includes corporate managers and must be developed throughout their education. This paper focuses on how to develop the sensitivity of business students to sustainability through an analysis of literary fiction. Literature is an excellent source for being confronted with human feelings and attitudes. The central goal is to associate human situations with the outcomes of cool calculations, and, furthermore, to relate them to behavioral finance. With this aim, this paper analyses two plays: Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice and Ibsen’s The Wild Duck. The Merchant of Venice presents an interesting interweaving of financial and social sustainability. We find in it an unregulated financial system in which lenders can freely decide the clauses of the contracts. Turning to the social side, the play shows a society dominated by the male of a dominant social class, against whom the racial and religious outcast Shylock, a Jew, plans revenge; while, in different ways, women try to overcome their secondary social role. After class discussions, students should be able to answer questions like: which social consequences do the lack of a fair financial regulation foster? How do pride, hate, and revenge create a barrier to social progress? The Wild Duck, in turn, can be taken as a metaphor of how humans cannot live confronted with nature. The environmental outrage (in reaction to the cutting down of the forest) that pervades the play and the tragedy that it creates are analyzed as the result of egotist management that puts aside environment and society. The Old Ekland’s last sentence, the forest has taken its revenge, summarizes the failure of men going against nature.


Business education Corporate social responsibility The Merchant of Venice The Wild Duck 



The authors thank three anonymous referees and the editors for their valuable comments. The usual disclaimer applies.


  1. Akerlof, G., and R.J. Shiller. 2009. Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy, and Why It Matters for Global Capitalism. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Badaracco, J.L. 2006a. Leadership in Literature: A Conversation with Business Ethicist Joseph L. Badaracco, Jr. Interview by Diane L. Coutu. Harvard Business Review 84 (3): 47–55.Google Scholar
  3. Badaracco, J.L. 2006b. Questions of Character: Illuminating the Heart of Leadership Through Literature. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.Google Scholar
  4. Bagozzi, R.P., M. Gopinath, and P.U. Nyer. 1999. The Role of Emotions in Marketing. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science 27 (2): 184–206. Scholar
  5. Bal, P.M., and M. Veltkamp. 2013. How Does Fiction Reading Influence Empathy? An Experimental Investigation on the Role of Emotional Transportation. PLoS One 8 (1): e55341. Scholar
  6. Barter, N., and H. Tregidga. 2014. Guest Editorial Storytelling: Beyond the Academic Article: Using Fiction, Art and Literary Techniques to Communicate. Journal of Corporate Citizenship 54 (June): 5–10. Scholar
  7. Beckert, J. 2013. Imagined Futures: Fictional Expectations in the Economy. Theory and Society 42 (3): 219–240. Scholar
  8. Benston, A.N. 1979. Portia, the Law, and the Tripartite Structure of the Merchant of Venice. Shakespeare Quarterly 30 (3): 367–385. Scholar
  9. Bloom, H. 1999. Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human. London: Fourth Estate.Google Scholar
  10. Bloom, H. 2001. A Reading List for Bill Gates—and You. A Conversation with Literary Critic Harold Bloom. Interview by Diane L. Coutu. Harvard Business Review 79 (5): 63–68.Google Scholar
  11. Desai, M. 2017. The Wisdom of Finance. London: Profile Books.Google Scholar
  12. Dickens, Charles. 1995. Hard Times. London: Penguin Classics.Google Scholar
  13. Dunne, D. 2014. ‘O, My Ducats! O, My Daughter!’ The Economics of Love in The Merchant of Venice. Accessed at 23 May 2018.
  14. Egan, M. 2000. Managers as Kings: Shakespeare on Modern Leadership. Management Decision 38 (5): 315–327. Scholar
  15. Elkington, J. 1994. Towards the Sustainable Corporation: Win-Win-Win Business Strategies for Sustainable Development. California Management Review 36 (2): 90–100. Scholar
  16. Goldman, M. 1994. Eyolf’s Eyes: Ibsen and the Cultural Meanings of Child Abuse. American Imago 51 (3): 279–305.Google Scholar
  17. Guber, P. 2007. The Four Truths of the Storyteller. Harvard Business Review 85 (12): 52–59.Google Scholar
  18. Harp, R. 2010. Love and Money in The Merchant of Venice. Modern Age 52 (1): 37–44.Google Scholar
  19. Heinrichs, J. 2017. Thank You for Arguing. London: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  20. Ibsen, H. 1980. The Wild Duck. English translation by Michael Meyer. London: Methuen Drama.Google Scholar
  21. Ioannidou, F., and V. Konstantikaki. 2008. Empathy and Emotional Intelligence. International Journal of Caring Sciences 1 (3): 118–123.Google Scholar
  22. Jennings, M. 2013. Literature and Ethics in Finance. Corporate Finance Review 18 (3): 29–33.Google Scholar
  23. Kahneman, D. 2011. Thinking Fast and Slow. New York: Farrar, Straus and Girou.Google Scholar
  24. Kidd, D.C., and E. Castano. 2013. Reading Literary Fiction Improves Theory of Mind. Science 342 (18): 377–380. Scholar
  25. Korda, N. 2009. Dame Usury: Gender, Credit, and (Ac)counting in the Sonnets and The Merchant of Venice. Shakespeare Quarterly 60 (2): 129–153. Scholar
  26. Ludwig, D.C., and C.O. Longenecker. 1993. The Bathsheba Syndrome: The Ethical Failure of Successful Leaders. Journal of Business Ethics 12 (4): 265–273. Scholar
  27. Malkiel, M. 2015. A Random Walk Down Wall Street. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  28. Mar, R.A., and K. Oatley. 2008. The Function of Fiction Is the Abstraction and Simulation of Social Experience. Perspectives on Psychological Science 3 (3): 173–192. Scholar
  29. Morson, G.S., and M. Schapiro. 2017. Cents and Sensibility: What Economics Can Learn from Humanities. Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Murphy, P.E. 1999. Character and Virtue Ethics in International Marketing. Journal of Business Ethics 18 (1): 107–124. Scholar
  31. Nofsinger, J.R. 2016. The Psychology of Investing. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Nünning, V. 2017. The Affective Value of Fiction. Writing Emotions, 29–54.
  33. Nussbaum, M. 1986. The Fragility of Goodness: Luck and Ethics in Greek Tragedy and Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Oatley, K. 1999. Why Fiction May Be Twice as True as Fact: Fiction as Cognitive and Emotional Simulation. Review of General Psychology 3 (2): 101–117. Scholar
  35. Porter, M.E., and M.R. Kramer. 2006. Strategy and Society. Harvard Business Review 84 (12): 78.Google Scholar
  36. Rappaport, A. 2012. Saving Capitalism from Short-Termism. New York: McGrawHill.Google Scholar
  37. Roy, D., and R. Zeckhauser. 2017. Ignorance: Literary Light on Decision’s Dark Corner. In Routledge Handbook of Behavioral Economics, ed. R. Frantz, S.H. Chen, K. Dopfer, F. Heulekom, and S. Mousavi, 230–249. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  38. Shakespeare, W. 1955. The Merchant of Venice, ed. John Russell Brown. Arden Edition. London: Methuen. Google Scholar
  39. Shiller, R. 2012. Finance and the Good Society. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Shiller, R. 2017. Narrative Economics. American Economic Review 107 (4): 967–1004. Scholar
  41. Stafford, T.F. 1999. Persuasion and Marketing. Psychology & Marketing 16 (2): 87–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Trepanier, L. 2014. Contract, Friendship, and Love in The Merchant of Venice. Perspectives on Political Science 43 (4): 204–212. Scholar
  43. Wagner, T., R.J. Lutz, and B.A. Weitz. 2009. Corporate Hypocrisy: Overcoming the Threat of Inconsistent Corporate Social Responsibility Perceptions. Journal of Marketing 73 (6): 77–91. Scholar
  44. Woolf, V. 1922. On Re-reading Novels. In Collected Essays (1967), vol. 2, 122–130. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World.Google Scholar
  45. Younkins, E.W. 2014. Exploring Capitalist Fiction. Lanham: Lexington Books.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maria Teresa Bosch Badia
    • 1
    Email author
  • Joan Montllor-Serrats
    • 2
  • Maria-Antonia Tarrazon-Rodon
    • 2
  1. 1.Universitat de GironaGironaSpain
  2. 2.Universitat Autonoma de BarcelonaBellaterraSpain

Personalised recommendations