nep-cul New Economics Papers
on Cultural Economics
Issue of 2009‒08‒22
six papers chosen by
Roberto Zanola
University of the Piemonte Orientale

  1. The Greatest Photographers of the Twentieth Century By David Galenson
  2. The Price of Degenerate Art By Kim Oosterlinck
  3. International Trade, Factor Mobility and the Persistence of Cultural-Institutional Diversity By Marianna Belloc; Samuel Bowles
  4. Cultural neuroeconomics of intertemporal choice By Takahashi, Taiki; Hadzibeganovic, Tarik; Cannas, Sergio; Makino, Takaki; Fukui, Hiroki; Kitayama, Shinobu
  5. Does Culture Affect Unemployment? Evidence from the Röstigraben By Beatrix Brügger; Rafael Lalive; Josef Zweimüller
  6. How universal is happiness? By Veenhoven, Ruut

  1. By: David Galenson
    Abstract: A survey of textbooks reveals that scholars consider Alfred Stieglitz to have been the greatest photographer of the twentieth century, followed in order by Walker Evans, Cindy Sherman, Man Ray, and Eugène Atget. Stieglitz, Evans, and Atget were experimental artists, who were committed to realism, whereas Man Ray and Sherman were conceptual innovators, who constructed images to express ideas. During much of the twentieth century, photography was dominated by the experimental approach and aesthetic of Stieglitz and his followers, but late in the century this changed; as photography grew increasingly central to advanced art in general, it came to be dominated by conceptual innovators. Sherman’s celebrated creation of artificial scenes is characteristic of the almost exclusively conceptual uses that today’s advanced artists make of its techniques and images, as technical and aesthetic considerations are generally subordinated to conceptual concerns.
    JEL: Z1 Z11
    Date: 2009–08
  2. By: Kim Oosterlinck (Centre Emile Bernheim, Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels.)
    Abstract: This paper analyzes, on basis of an original database of close to 3 000 canvasses sold during the war in Drouot, the main French auction house, the evolution of the art market in occupied France. Based on hedonic regressions, it shows that by all standards the market experienced a massive boom. Our index increases from a value of 100 in December 1940 to more than 500 in February 1943 after which a marked decline occurred up till November 1943. The paper also analyzes the impact on the market of a given state policy regarding acceptable taste. The paper shows that the price of the paintings viewed as “degenerate” by the Nazis mimicked those of the art market in general and this up till June 1944 when their price increases once more whereas the general index decreases slightly.
    Keywords: Art market, Art investments, Degenerate art, Economics of occupation, Hedonic Regression, World War Two
    JEL: G1 N44 Z11
    Date: 2009–08
  3. By: Marianna Belloc (Sapienza University of Rome); Samuel Bowles (Santa Fe Institute, University of Siena, and University of Massachusetts Amherst)
    Abstract: Cultural and institutional differences among nations may result in differences in the ratios of marginal costs of goods in autarchy and thus be the basis of specialization and comparative advantage, as long as these differences are not eliminated by trade. We provide an evolutionary model of endogenous preferences and institutions under autarchy, trade and factor mobility in which multiple asymptotically stable cultural-institutional conventions may exist, among which transitions may occur as a result of decentralized and un-coordinated actions of employers or employees. We show that: i) specialization and trade may arise and enhance welfare even when the countries are identical other than their cultural-institutional equilibria; ii) trade liberalization does not lead to convergence, it reinforces the cultural-institutional differences upon which comparative advantage is based and may thus impede even Pareto-improving cultural-institutional transitions; and iii) by contrast, greater mobility of factors of production favors decentralized transitions to a superior cultural-institutional convention by reducing the minimum number of cultural or institutional innovators necessary to induce a transition. JEL Categories: D23, F15, F16, C73
    Keywords: institutions, incomplete contracts, evolutionary game theory, culture, trade integration, factor mobility, globalization
    Date: 2009–08
  4. By: Takahashi, Taiki; Hadzibeganovic, Tarik; Cannas, Sergio; Makino, Takaki; Fukui, Hiroki; Kitayama, Shinobu
    Abstract: According to theories of cultural neuroscience, Westerners and Easterners may have distinct styles of cognition (e.g., different allocation of attention). Previous research has shown that Westerners and Easterners tend to utilize analytical and holistic cognitive styles, respectively. On the other hand, little is known regarding the cultural differences in neuroeconomic behavior. For instance, economic decisions may be affected by cultural differences in neurocomputational processing underlying attention; however, this area of neuroeconomics has been largely understudied. In the present paper, we attempt to bridge this gap by considering the links between the theory of cultural neuroscience and neuroeconomic theory of the role of attention in intertemporal choice. We predict that (i) Westerners are more impulsive and inconsistent in intertemporal choice in comparison to Easterners, and (ii) Westerners more steeply discount delayed monetary losses than Easterners. We examine these predictions by utilizing a novel temporal discounting model based on Tsallis' statistics (i.e. a q-exponential model). Our preliminary analysis of temporal discounting of gains and losses by Americans and Japanese confirmed the predictions from the cultural neuroeconomic theory. Future study directions, employing computational modeling via neural networks, are briefly outlined and discussed.
    Keywords: Cultural neuroscience; neuroeconomics; intertemporal choice; attention allocation; Tsallis’ statistics; neural networks
    JEL: C63 C02 Z19 C49 C91
    Date: 2009
  5. By: Beatrix Brügger; Rafael Lalive; Josef Zweimüller
    Abstract: This paper studies the role of culture in shaping unemployment outcomes. The empir- ical analysis is based on local comparisons across a language barrier in Switzerland. This Röstigraben separates cultural groups, but neither labor markets nor political jurisdictions. Local contrasts across the language border identify the role of culture for unemployment. Our findings indicate that differences in culture explain differences in unemployment dura- tion on the order of 20 %. Moreover, we find that horizontal transmission of culture is more important than vertical transmission of culture and that culture is about as important as strong changes to the benefit duration.
    Keywords: culture, cultural transmission, unemployment duration, regional unemployment
    JEL: J21 J64 Z10
    Date: 2009–07
  6. By: Veenhoven, Ruut
    Abstract: There is a longstanding discussion on whether happiness is culturally relative or not. The following questions are addressed in that context: 1) Do we all assess how much we like our life? 2) Do we appraise our life on the same grounds? 3) Are the conditions for happiness similar for all of us? 4) Are the consequences of happiness similar in all cultures? 5) Do we all seek happiness? 6) Do we seek happiness in similar ways? 7) Do we enjoy life about equally much? The available data suggest that all humans tend to assess how much they like their life. The evaluation draws on affective experience, which is linked to gratification of universal human needs and on cognitive comparison which is framed by cultural standards of the good life. The overall appraisal seems to depend more on the former, than on the latter source of information. Conditions for happiness appear to be quite similar across the world and so are the consequences of enjoying life or not. There is more cultural variation in the valuation of happiness and in beliefs about conditions for happiness. The greatest variation is found in how happy people are.
    Keywords: happiness; life satisfaction; cultural relativism; human nature; utilitarianism
    JEL: Z10 I00 D60
    Date: 2008–10–13

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