A person’s life is immersed in talk. We may be moral animals, or even rational animals, but we are without a doubt conversational and storytelling animals. Historians and social scientists are divided on the significance of talk in larger human affairs. On one end we find the fairly popular belief that persuasion, ideas, and ideology—stories of a certain sort—drive human history. On the other, particularly in economics, we find the assumption that such things have negligible, possibly nonexistent impact, and that larger forces and pressures shape outcomes within and across social systems.
The name of this blog is a tribute to Deirdre McCloskey, a scholar who walks the fine line between these perspectives. On the one hand she is an economist by training who does not believe that the laws of supply and demand are up for negotiation. On the other hand, she believes that persuasion is of the utmost importance in human affairs; she and a co-author attributed one-fourth of America’s GDP to professional persuasion. Moreover, she is currently laying out the case that persuasion and rhetoric were responsible for the Industrial Revolution.
This blog is not committed to McCloskey’s particular ideas, so much as her emphasis on both social science and the humanities, a line we hope to straddle and blur as best we can. Whatever a particular author thinks about the power of conversation to move history, we have all come here because we believe it to be sublime, a pastime worthy for its own sake. We talk, not just because we love the sound of our own voices or the way our words look on a screen, but because we love the art of telling and trading stories. We come to entertain notions as much as to defend them, and to learn from one another as equals as much to win people over to some perceived side of a debate.
Sweet Talk is a place where conversation, and not much else, is sacred. We invite you to join us not only as readers but as participants in the comment section, on your own blogs, or even as a contributor here yourself.