1Department of Applied Economics I, History and Economic Institutions and Moral Philosophy, Social and Legal Sciences Faculty, Rey Juan Carlos University, 28033 Madrid, Spain
2Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Universidad Autónoma de Chile, Providencia 7500912, Chile; se.rgu@somarpaj
3Department of Business Economics (ADO), Applied Economics II and Fundamentals of Economic Analysis, Social and Legal Sciences Faculty, Rey Juan Carlos University, 28033 Madrid, Spain
In this article, we aim to develop a political economy of mass hysteria. Using the background of COVID-19, we study past mass hysteria. Negative information which is spread through mass media repetitively can affect public health negatively in the form of nocebo effects and mass hysteria. We argue that mass and digital media in connection with the state may have had adverse consequences during the COVID-19 crisis. The resulting collective hysteria may have contributed to policy errors by governments not in line with health recommendations. While mass hysteria can occur in societies with a minimal state, we show that there exist certain self-corrective mechanisms and limits to the harm inflicted, such as sacrosanct private property rights. However, mass hysteria can be exacerbated and self-reinforcing when the negative information comes from an authoritative source, when the media are politicized, and social networks make the negative information omnipresent. We conclude that the negative long-term effects of mass hysteria are exacerbated by the size of the state.
Public healthcare systems form a vital part of the welfare state. Indeed, it is generally taken for granted that one main purpose of the modern welfare state is to improve public health. It is supposed that the state positively contributes to public health. In this article, we question this narrative in relation to the phenomenon of mass hysteria. We analyze how the modern state influences the development and extension of mass hysteria, arguing that the state exacerbates this phenomenon with adverse consequences for public health. By developing a political economy of mass hysteria, we fill an apparent gap in the literature. There have been many illuminating studies on psychological issues related to the phenomena of mass hysteria. As a consequence of the COVID-19 crisis, there have been several studies examining the adverse psychological effects of state-imposed lockdowns [1,2,3,4]. There are also studies that examine the contribution of digital media and the internet to anxiety [5,6], emotional contagion [7,8], anxiety transmissions [9,10], and nocebo effects [11,12]. However, to our knowledge, there has been no study that analyzes how different political institutions and the state affect the development and extension of mass hysteria. The interplay of media, science, politics, and public is a real research gap . Building on the psychology related to the phenomenon of mass hysteria, we develop a political economy of mass hysteria deriving important insights from a public health perspective.