Richard Robb, "Willful: How We Choose What We Do" (Yale UP, 2019)


Tired of the mechanical, narrowly rational human behavior of the Chicago school, but not exactly comforted by the emphasis on irrational activity in behavioral economics? So am I. Richard Robb, professor at Columbia and fund manager, offers a third way. In Willful: How We Choose What We Do (Yale University Press, 2019), Robb develops the notion of "for itself" behavior and decision making that can't be reduced to the algorithms of calculating machines, or even those that are adjusted for human foibles. Willful is not a comprehensive theory of decision making, but an effort to reinsert some element of humanity into explanations of how individuals and groups act. It is a work along the lines of "life is a journey, not a destination" but one well enriched by a wide reading of ancient and modern philosophers.
Daniel Peris is Senior Vice President at Federated Investors in Pittsburgh. Trained as a historian of modern Russia, he is the author most recently of Getting Back to Business: Why Modern Portfolio Theory Fails Investors. You can follow him on Twitter @Back2BizBook or at

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Daniel Peris

Daniel Peris is Senior Vice President at Federated Hermes in Pittsburgh. He can be reached at or via Twitter @HistoryInvestor. His History and Investing blog and Keep Calm & Carry On Investing podcast are here.

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