Mind & Society

, Volume 16, Issue 1–2, pp 37–49 | Cite as

Xenophobia is really that: a (rational) fear of the stranger

  • Guido Ortona


A definition of xenophobia is provided. It is argued that basic economics may produce a general theory of it, and that a basic tenet of behavioural economics, i.e. risk aversion, may explain an important class of specific cases of xenophobia. A typical persona oeconomica is risk-averse, hence s/he will fear the changes in social norms that an influx of alien people will induce. Social norms are ubiquitous, yet their relevance and the matters they refer to may be very different; hence a general theory of xenophobia may explain specific cases only to a limited degree. Another possible explanation, based on evolutionary biology, is rejected on empirical bases.


Risk aversion Xenophobia Social norms 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dipartimento di Giurisprudenza e Scienze Economiche, Politiche e SocialiUniversità del Piemonte OrientaleAlessandriaItaly

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