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Culture of Empathy Builder:  Mark Honigsbaum

Mark Honigsbaum and Edwin Rutsch: Dialogs on How to Build a Culture of Empathy

Mark Honigsbaum is a Research Associate at the University of Zurich's Institute for Medical History and the author of 'Living With Enza'.

Mark wrote some articles about the role empathy, The Politics of Empathy and Barack Obama and the 'empathy deficit' which was published in the Guardian. We talked about his articles and views on the role of empathy in society

Mark said, "I'd be very happy to talk to you about empathy just so long as you understand that I am primarily an historian of medicine so, while I am all for promoting greater compassion and awareness of the predicament of those less fortunate than myself, I am wary of this notion of empathy as intrinsically pro-social and moral. This strikes me as a very recent notion, traceable to the birth of the psy sciences around the turn of the last century. Moreover, if alleviating the suffering of the poor and disadvantaged is to be more than a feel-good sound bite it has to be married with a real political agenda, which means making choices and taking sides (in my opinion of course)"

Sub Conference: Journalism and Media



Mark Honigsbaum and Edwin Rutsch: How to Build a Culture of Empathy



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December 3, 2012 : The History of Emotions Blog: The Politics of Empathy
"When Mitt Romney was caught on camera writing-off 47 per cent of Americans as tax avoiders, Democrats were quick to jump on his remarks as another example of the Republican Party’s ‘empathy deficit’. Since Barack Obama identified a lack of empathy as the cause of America’s bitter partisan divides, a series of studies have claimed to show that conservatives score lower on empathy than liberals. As one would expect, Republicans contest these findings, arguing that such studies tend to favour Democratic principles of compassion and care over Republican philosophies of autonomy and self-help. It’s not that they have less empathy, they argue, it is just that there are times when other moral values such as justice and self-determination take precedence and compassion should take a back seat."



4 January 2013 - Barack Obama and the 'empathy deficit' -
"The US president claims the 'empathy deficit' is a more pressing problem than the federal deficit, but empathy may be merely a product of changing scientific fashions.

Neuroscientists are not the only ones to see empathy – or its absence – everywhere these days. According to Barack Obama the
 "empathy deficit" is a more pressing political problem for America than the federal deficit and holds the key to the success of his second term as he seeks to build bridges with Republicans and tackle the wave of horrific shootings that last year disfigured American communities from Colorado to Connecticut. On this side of the Atlantic, meanwhile, George Osborne's enthusiasm for welfare cuts is explained by the coalition cabinet's "lack of empathy" for the poor."