The role of emotions in politics and economics

Seminar 2nd (or higher) semester

Master in International Economics & Public Policy (MIEPP)

Teaching staff: Claudia Landwehr and Klaus Wälde

Seminar announcement

This seminar is jointly offered by the Department of Political Science and the MIEPP programme. All students enjoying interaction with other disciplines and that like to get to know thinking that goes beyond standard economic argument should find this seminar of high interest.

The seminar is about emotions in politics and economics. The role of emotions in both politics and economics is a much-discussed, but under-researched topic. How do negative emotions like fear, anger or hate, but also positive emotions like compassion or hope affect the behaviour of economic subjects and political actors? What role do emotions play for large-scale political and economic dynamics and developments, such as the rise of populism or economic booms and recessions?

This interdisciplinary seminar addresses different emotions trying to understand their origins and implications from both economic and political science perspectives. An emphasis is put on engaging students from both Master-programs in a dialogue.

Seminar Sessions and Topics

The literature is provided, as far as possible, via the Reader [link to Reader coming soon]

Thursday, 23 April 2020: Introduction

This section presents various approaches to understanding emotions, their origins and their effects. Political scientists and economists provide an introduction to how emotions are taken into account in their discipline.

  • Dhami, S., The foundations of behavioral economic analysis, 2016, Oxford University Press
  • Elster, J., Emotions and Economic Theory, Journal of Economic Literature, 1998, 36 (1), pp. 37-74
  • Marcus, G.E., Emotions in Politics, Annual Review of Political Science, 2000, 3 (1), pp. 221-250
  • Wälde, K. and Moors, A., Current Emotion Research in Economics,  Emotion Review, 2017, 9, pp. 271-278
  • Wälde, 2016, Emotion Research in Economics (longer and more formal version), CESifo Working Paper 5982

Thursday, 30 April 2020: Hurt and resentment

The ethnographic study of grievances of the white rural working class by Hochschild has been perceived by many of those shocked by Donald Trump’s election as American president as a glimpse into a world of feelings liberal cosmopolitans struggle to understand. Economics students present models of regret and disappointment. The discussion should foster an understanding of how these feelings and the modeling strategy is appropriate for understanding grievances or white rural working class better.

  • Hochschild, A.R., Strangers in Their Own Land, The New Press, 2016, chapter 9 „The deep story”, pp.135-151
  • Loomes, G. and Sugden, R., Regret Theory: An Alternative Theory of Rational Choice under Uncertainty, Economic Journal, 1982, 368 (92), pp. 805-824
  • Loomes, G. and Sugden, R., Disappointment and Dynamic Consistency in Choice under Uncertainty, Review of Economic Studies, 1986, 53 (2), pp. 271-282

Thursday, 7 May 2020: Fear and Anger

Fear of competition and loss and anger about apparent failures of democratic governments to ensure welfare and growth seem to drive demand for populist parties and candidates and nationalist and protectionist policies. This is studied both by political scientists (Marcus, 2019) as well as economists (references by Colantone et al). A comparison of questions asked and answers found across disciplines will be very interesting.

  • Marcus, G.E., 2019, How Fear and Anger Impact Democracy, Democracy Papers, 2019 
  • Colantone, I. and Stanig, P., The Trade Origins of Economic Nationalism: Import Competition and Voting Behavior in Western Europe, American Journal of Political Science, 2018, 62 (4), pp. 936–953
  • Colantone, I., Crino, R. and Ogliari, L., The Hidden Cost of Globalization:Import Competition and Mental Distress, Working Paper, 2015,  BAFFI CAREFIN Centre Research Paper Series,No. 2015-112015,

Thursday, 14 May 2020: Depression and Low Mood

Research from political science shows that low mood and depression negatively affect political participation and electoral turnout. The contribution from economics consists in a model of fatigue and burnout. Seminar papers should find parallels between the approaches.

  • Ojeda, C., Depression and Political Participation, Social Science Quarterly, 2015, 96 (5), pp. 1226-43
  • Landwehr/Ojeda 2020
  • Donsimoni, J.R., Work Intensity and Labour Supply, 2019

Monday, 18 May 2020: Faculty Seminar Talk by Christopher Ojeda (tbc)

Thursday, 28 May 2020: Disaffection and Frustration

What are the consequences when some social groups persistently fail to influence political decision-making in their way? How do losing in elections and politics more generally and the resulting feelings of frustration and disaffection affect support for democracy?

Thursday, 4 June 2020: Status Anxiety

In political science, status anxiety is considered as a determinant of political disaffection, protest and, especially, support for political parties. In economics, anticipatory feelings, such as anxiety are nicely studied and modeled by e.g. Caplin and Leahy (2001). A survey is provided by Rick and Loewenstein (2008) and Wälde (2016) provides a simple version of the Caplin Leahy (2001) model. Can this simple model be applied to the issue of political disaffection?

  • Gidron and Hall, The politics of social status: economic and cultural roots of the populist right, The British Journal of Sociology, 2017, 68 (S1), pp. 57-84
  • Caplin and Leahy, Psychological Expected Utility Theory and Anticipatory Feelings, 2001, The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 116 (1), pp. 55-79
  • Rick, S. and Loewenstein, G.,The role of emotion in economic behavior, In: Handbook of emotions, Lewis, M. and Haviland-Jones, J.M. and Feldman Barrett, L. (eds.), The Guilford Press, 2008, pp. 138-156

Thursday, 18 June 2020: Hate and Political Violence

Hate seems to constitute an irrational motive, leading to violence and losses to all parties in ethnic conflicts and (civil) wars. But is there a political economy of hatred, in which feelings are instrumentalised for strategic purposes? An outstanding example of the analysis of hatred in economics is provided by Glaeser (2005).

  • Petersen, R., Emotions as the Residue of Lived Experience, Political Science & Politics, 2017, 50 (4),  pp. 932-935.
  • Costalli. S. and Ruggeri, A., Political Science & Politics, 2017, 50 (4), pp. 923-927
  • Glaeser, E.L., The Political Economy of Hatred, Quarterly Journal of Economics, 2005, 120 (1) pp. 45–86

Thursday, 25 June 2020: Guilt, Shame, Embarrassment

Feelings of guilt and shame have considerable relevance for human behaviour. This session specifically addresses the issue of collective guilt and shame for war crimes, the psychological dynamics behind it - on the individual and collective level – and its political implications.The economics of shame and guilt starts with the analysis by Dufwenberg (2002)

  • Lu, C., Shame, Guilt and Reconciliation after War, European Journal of Social Theory, 2008, 11(3), pp. 367–383
  • Dufwenberg, M., Marital investments, time consistency and emotions, Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 2002, 48 (1), pp. 57–69

Thursday, 2 July 2020: Empathy, Compassion and Solidarity

Positive emotions like empathy and compassion are discussed as requirements for solidarity, charity and redistribution. Are they in limited supply or is it possible to utilize them in pursuit of a more equal and just society? The foundation of this type of behavior has been analysed in economics for a long time. See e.g. Becker (1976) for seminal work, Fehr and Schmidt (2006) for a survey and Andreoni et al (2017) for a recent application.

  • Hoggett, P., Pity, Compassion, Solidarity, In: Emotion, Politics and Society, Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2006, Clarke S., Hoggett P., Thompson S. (eds), chapter 9, pp. 145-191
  • Höijer, B., The Discourse of Global Compassion: The Audience and Media Reporting of Human Suffering, Media, Culture & Society, 2004, 26(4), pp. 513–531
  • Becker, G.S., Altruism, Egoism, and Genetic Fitness: Economics and Sociobiology, Journal of Economic Literature, 1976, 14 (3), pp. 817-826
  • Fehr, E. and Schmidt, K.M.,The Economics of Fairness, Reciprocity and Altruism – Experimental Evidence and New Theories, In: Handbook of the Economics of Giving, Altruism and Reciprocity, North Holland, 2006, Kolm, S-C. and Mercier Ythier, J. (eds.), chapter 8, pp. 615-691
  • Andreoni,. J. and Raon, J.M. and Trachtmann, H., Avoiding the Ask: A Field Experiment on Altruism, Empathy, and Charitable Giving, Journal of Political Economy, 2017, 125 (3), pp. 625-653

Thursday, 9 July 2020: Hope and aspiration

What is the point in democracy? To achieve rational solutions to societal problems or to enable the pursuit of a brighter future? The text by Canovan argues that there is a persistent ideological struggle between the rational and the aspirational side of democracy that provides fertile ground for recurrent populist upheavals.

  • Canovan, M.,Trust the People! Populism and the Two Faces of Democracy, Political Studies, 1999, 47 (1) pp. 2-16
  • Further literature from economics will be provided