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Posted by: Doug Henwood | May 18, 2010

Recessions & politics (cont.)

Hans Peter Grüner has posted the paper that he and Markus Brückner wrote about the electoral effects of economic recessions to his website: here.

It makes eminent psychological sense that a crisis might lead people toward conservative responses—a feeling of impending scarcity encourages selfishness, not generosity. It’s been ages since I read Erik Erikson, but as I recall the identity crisis, it leads the sufferer back to remembered moments of security and happiness, not toward an uncertain transformative future. That helps explain why immigrants are so often the target in an economic crisis: it’s not just about labor market competition (and some of the most xenophobic are those who experience no labor market competition with immigrants), but a fear of the foreign amidst a passionate reversion to the familiar.

More on the immigrant angle: further evidence that feelings about immigration are driven more by “cultural” than narrowly economic concerns can be found in this paper by David Card, Christian Dustmann, and Ian Preston. Among other things they find that some of the most passionately anti-immigrant people are retirees, who of course have no labor market competition issues. Christians are more opposed to immigration than non-Christians, and there’s a lot of anxiety about heathen nonwhites polluting native cultures.

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Responses

  1. Yeah, Erikson and all that. Tis true, but check out this down home version of the same:

    http://friendsofjustice.wordpress.com/2010/05/20/we-need-a-new-kind-of-christianity/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+FriendsOfJustice+%28Friends+of+Justice%29

  2. Joyce Appleby (“The Relentless Revolution”) recently told Lewis Lapham that, traditionally, it was famine that compelled people to be compliant with authoritarian rule: “if you’re on a sinking ship, you obey the commander, because you want to survive.”
    (Or something close to that.) iTunes: http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/appleby-discusses-the-relentless/id277975407?i=83490007

    Another great “big picture” presentation in an interview of David Harvey here:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00s3fzq

    He notes that it wasn’t until four years after the stock market crash that Roosevelt felt compelled to start pushing the New Deal, and that we’re two years into the present crisis.

    Having read your recent newsletter, I, too, am interested is seeing what sorts of fruit the coming disillusionment might bear.

    In my view, proportional representation is crucial, and I place great hope on the example the Brits might provide in the near future.

  3. Mr. Henwood,

    Phil Gasper wrote a piece addressing your claims that recessions are better for the right than they are for the left. Quite frankly, I think he misses the point of what you were trying to say.

    -Jack

  4. *note: Gasper’s article can be found in the latest issue of ISR.


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