Michael Suk-Young Chwe

Chwe expounds on Fanny’s strategic thinking in Mansfield Park.

Fall 2013

Strategies and Choices:

What Would Jane Do?

September 7, 2013

Pasadena Public Library: Donald R. Wright Auditorium


Michael Suk-Young Chwe — Jane Austen, Game Theorist


More than 80 members and guests the Fall 2013 half-day meeting to hear Michael Suk-Young Chwe discuss his recently released book, Jane Austen, Game Theorist. He shared Jane Austen’s remarkable insights into strategic thinking, with examples taken from her novels.

Game theory is the technical and mathematical study of how people make choices while interacting with others. Chwe explained that strategic thinking is game theory’s central concept: When choosing an action, a person thinks about how others will act. Jane Austen didn’t apply the math but she was a master at the penetrating observation of people and their strategies. Chwe showed us how Austen theorized choice and preferences, prized strategic thinking, argued that jointly strategizing with a partner is the surest foundation for intimacy and analyzed why superiors are often strategically clueless about inferiors. According to Chwe, Austen even has lessons for game theorists today.

“Austen makes particular advances in a topic not yet taken up by modern game theory: the conspicuous absence of strategic thinking, what I call ‘cluelessness.'”

In addition to his lively talk, Chwe led us in an activity in which we applied our fledgling game theory skills! He signed copies of Jane Austen, Game Theorist after the program.


Michael Suk-Young Chwe (pronounced like “chess” without the “ss”) is a professor of political science at UCLA. He received his doctorate in economics at Northwestern University and his bachelor’s at Caltech. He has previously been on the faculty of the University of Chicago (economics) and New York University (political science). His research centers on game theory and its applications to social movements, voting and information aggregation, social networks, monetary policy, violence and literature. He became interested in Jane Austen after watching movies and reading books with his children. Read related article on Michael Chwe and his book.