Heroes and Villains: The Effects of Combat Heroism on Autocratic Values and Nazi Collaboration in France

76 Pages Posted: 8 Jan 2021

See all articles by Julia Cage

Julia Cage

Sciences Po Paris Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Anna Dagorret

Stanford Graduate School of Business

Pauline A. Grosjean

UNSW Business School, School of Economics

Saumitra Jha

Stanford Graduate School of Business

Date Written: December 22, 2020

Abstract

Can heroes legitimize strongly-proscribed and repugnant political behaviors? We exploit the purposefully arbitrary rotation of French regiments to measure the legitimizing effects of heroic credentials. 53% of French line regiments happened to rotate under a specific general, Philippe P'etain, during the pivotal WWI battle of Verdun (1916). Using recently-declassified intelligence data on 95,314 individuals, we find the home municipalities of regiments serving under P'etain at Verdun raised 7\% more Nazi collaborators during the P'etain-led Vichy regime (1940-44). The effects are similar across joining Fascist parties, German forces, paramilitaries that hunted Jews and the Resistance, and collaborating economically. These municipalities also increasingly vote for right-wing parties between the wars. The voting effects persist after WWII, becoming particularly salient during social crises. We argue these results reflect the complementary role of the heroes of Verdun in legitimizing and diffusing the authoritarian values of their former leader.

Keywords: Heroes, Leaders, Democratic Values, Autocracy, Identity, Networks, Votes, Legitimacy

JEL Classification: D74, N44, L14

Suggested Citation

Cage, Julia and Dagorret, Anna and Grosjean, Pauline A. and Jha, Saumitra, Heroes and Villains: The Effects of Combat Heroism on Autocratic Values and Nazi Collaboration in France (December 22, 2020). Stanford University Graduate School of Business Research Paper No. 3923, UNSW Business School Research Paper Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3753869 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3753869

Julia Cage

Sciences Po Paris Department of Economics ( email )

28 Rue des Saints-Pères
Paris, 75007
France

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

London
United Kingdom

Anna Dagorret

Stanford Graduate School of Business ( email )

655 Knight Way
Stanford, 94305
United States

Pauline A. Grosjean

UNSW Business School, School of Economics ( email )

High Street
Sydney, NSW 2052
Australia

Saumitra Jha (Contact Author)

Stanford Graduate School of Business ( email )

655 Knight Way
Stanford, CA 94305-5015
United States

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