Culture & Economics

Selected events

TV, Economics & Society. A dialogue between the arts and economics, 21 November 2014.

The Birth and Rise of Epic TV Series - Tom Fontana in Conversation with Sir Peter Jonas, 21 November 2014.

Animals as Food? Three Views. Live recording of the WZB event with Melanie Joy, Bernd Ladwig and Gerhard Manteuffel, 28 November 2013.

Vince Gilligan in Conversation: Breaking Bad: Economics and Morality (26 August 2013)

Change in Economy and Arts - Workshop on 13 February 2013)

Interpretation in the Arts and in Economics: Exploring the Anglo-German Divide - Workshop on 10-11 November 2011



Ellguth, Paula/Fels, Marjam/Albert, Philipp/Harmgart, Heike/Huck, Steffen (2016): Double Shift. Education for Syrian Refugee Children in Jordan. WZB-EOC Schriften, Bd. 2. Berlin: WZB, 340 S. (published in English and German); multimedia documentary available online at:

Becker, Anna/Huck, Steffen/ Schubert, Julia/ Szech, Nora (2015): Fleisch und Farbe. WZB-EOC Schriften Bd. 1, Berlin.


Selected papers and abstracts

Chrissochoidis, Ilias/Harmgart, Heike/Huck, Steffen/Müller, Wieland (2014): "'Though This Be Madness, Yet There Is Method In't'. A Counterfactual Analysis of Richard Wagner's 'Tannhäuser'". In: Music and Letters, Vol. 95, No. 4, S. 584-602.

Abstract: The eponymous hero of Wagner’s Tannhäuser treads a path of stark contrasts and rapid swings that culminate in the opera’s central episode, the song contest at Wartburg. Instead of securing his reintegration within the court with a brilliant performance, Tannhäuser spoils the event with insolent remarks and the exhibitionist disclosure of his Venusberg experience. His behaviour offends his peers, scandalizes the court, breaks Elisabeth’s heart, and brings him to the edge of death. Why would he sacrifice everything for nothing? Existing interpretations of Wagner’s Tannhäuser blame either the hero’s flaws or the young composer’s unconvincing dramaturgy, and take for granted Tannhäuser’s hyper-emotional impulsive nature. This essay offers a radically new perspective on the opera by drawing on game theory, the dominant methodology in the social sciences. Through a detailed analysis of the hero’s decision-making, it argues that his seemingly irrational behaviour is actually consistent with a strategy of redemption. Musical evidence in the score indeed suggests that Tannhäuser may have consciously disrupted the contest, knowing that only a public disclosure of his sinful past can force him to make the pilgrimage to Rome and secure a permanent union with Elizabeth.

Konrad, Kai A. (2013): Affection, Speed Dating and Heart Breaking. WZB Discussion Paper SP II 2013-309. Berlin: WZB.

Abstract: This paper explores the role of unilateral and idiosyncratic affection rents (’love’) from being married with a specific individual in a matching model with individuals with heterogenous matching frequencies. We show that individuals suffer in expectation from being matched with individuals with high matching frequency. High-frequency daters have high reservation utilities for entering into a marriage. This makes them turn down many offers and makes them appear as ’heart-breakers’.

Huck, Steffen/Chrissochoidis, Ilias (2011) Elsa’s reason: On beliefs and motives in Wagner’s Lohengrin, Cambridge Opera Journal, 2011, Vol. 22, 65-91.

Abstract: Once Wagner’s most popular opera, Lohengrin has suffered scholarly neglect in the postwar period. This essay reengages with the work from the novel perspective of game theory analysis. Centering on Elsa’s breach of the Frageverbot, it offers a rigorous epistemological study of the opera’s main characters. Against traditional interpretations of the heroine’s fatal decision, we propose a complex and psychologically more satisfactory account. Elsa asks the forbidden question because she needs to confirm Lohengrin’s belief in her innocence, a belief that Ortrud successfully eroded in Act II. This novel interpretation reveals Elsa as a rational individual, upgrades the dramatic significance of the Act I combat scene, and signals a hermeneutic return to the heart of opera criticism, the drama itself.


Other writings

Huck, Steffen (2014): "Die Illusion des Punkts/The Illusion of the Point". In: Gisbert Porstmann/Städtische Galerie Dresden - Kunstsammlung (Eds.): Stefan Heyne - Naked Light. Die Belichtung des Unendlichen/Exposing Infinity. Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz Verlag, S. 26-29.

Huck, Steffen/Iljine, Diana/Jonas, Sir Peter (2013): A narrative revolution = Eine narrative Revolution, in: Expanded narration = Das neue Erzählen, eds. Bernd Kracke; Marc Ries, Bielefeld: Transkript 2013, 257-265, 275-283.

Huck, Steffen (2013): Counting the cost: On what Breaking Bad can teach us about economics, Spectator, 5 October 2013, 65-66, also available online at…

Huck, Steffen (2012): Skulpturen aus geschredderten Aktien: eine sichere Bank, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 2012, Nr. 30 (5.2.2012), also available online at:

Huck, Steffen (2012): Meltdown in Valhalla, Spectator, 13 October 2012, 52-53, also available online at