Political Economy of Identity

Panel Code

The issue of social identity has taken centre stage in recent political events with the rise of nationalism and regionalism in Europe, the Brexit vote and the Trump election. The present panel will investigate the interrelations between social identity, the political institutions, the political environment and the economic system. Papers in this session will take two angles: First, how do existing social identities influence political and social behaviour? Second, what are the roles of economic and political dynamics in shaping citizens’ social identities.
Two papers (Jetten and Mols) will investigate the effect of economic inequalities on social identity. It is often argued that the rise of inequality has played a role in the rise in nationalist parties in Europe and for the election of Donald Trump in the USA. Papers in the session will investigate the evidence for this role of economic inequality in cementing social identities along country and/or ethnic lines. One paper (Gangadharan), will look into the role of inequality in triggering negative behaviour towards out-group members will also be discussed.
Finally, two papers (Haslam and Page) will show how social identity can usefully be thought as a stake in competitions for leadership. Social identities are influenced by economic and political agents who strategically select and foster symbols of identity to promote feelings of social identity along group lines favourable to their strategies. Social identities are assets for politicians/leaders who compete for power. Notions of political economy and game theory can be applied to explain the conditions under which the dynamics set in motions by the competition for leadership between agents can lead to the emergence and strengthening of conflicting social identities or on the contrary to an overarching social identity shared by all citizens.