Equilibrium Fictions: A Cognitive Approach to Societal Rigidity
This paper assesses the role of ideas in economic change, combining economic and historical analysis with insights from psychology, sociology and anthropology. Belief systems shape the system of categories ("pre-confirmatory bias") and perceptions (confirmatory bias), and are themselves constrained by fundamental values. We illustrate the model using the historical construction of racial categories. Given the post-Reformation fundamental belief that all men had rights, colonial powers after the 15th century constructed ideologies that the colonized groups they exploited were naturally inferior, and gave these beliefs precedence over other aspects of belief systems. Historical work finds that doctrines of race came into their own in the colonies that became the US after, not before, slavery; that out of the "scandal of empire" in India emerged a "race theory that cast Britons and Indians in a relationship of absolute difference"; and that arguments used by the settlers in Australia to justify their policies towards the Aborigines entailed in effect the expulsion of the Aborigines from the human race. Racial ideology shaped categories and perceptions in ways that we show can give rise to equilibrium fictions. In our framework, technology, contacts with the outside world, and changes in power and wealth matter not just directly but because they can lead to changes in ideology.
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Volume (Year): 100 (2010)
Issue (Month): 2 (May)
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Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Roland Benabou & Jean Tirole, 2005.
"Belief in a Just World and Redistributive Politics,"
NBER Working Papers
11208, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Roland Bénabou & Jean Tirole, 2006. "Belief in a Just World and Redistributive Politics," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 121(2), pages 699-746, May.
- Bénabou, Roland & Tirole, Jean, 2005. "Belief in a Just World and Redistributive Politics," CEPR Discussion Papers 4952, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
- Benabou, Roland & Tirole, Jean, 2004. "Belief in a Just World and Redistributive Politics," Papers 08-15-2005a, Princeton University, Research Program in Political Economy.
- Jean Tirole & Roland Benabou, 2004. "Belief in a Just World and Redistributive Politics," 2004 Meeting Papers 15, Society for Economic Dynamics.
- Marianne Bertrand & Dolly Chugh & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2005. "Implicit Discrimination," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 94-98, May.
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"The Political Economy of Hatred,"
NBER Working Papers
9171, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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