The Netherlands has long been portrayed as a sober nation of merchants. The Republic of Seven United Netherlands, one of the world’s first modern capitalist economies, is said to have been built on a prudent commercial moral code. This myth was grounded in the dominant economic theory of the efficient market, with homo economicus as its cornerstone. For several decades, this image has been subject to change. First of all, trade and commerce in general seem to be playing a less central role in the self-image of the Netherlands today. On the other hand, the idea of the rational market has come under heavy fire in the economic sciences, including from new fields such as behavioural economics.


NL-Lab researches the ‘affective economy’ of the Netherlands. What roles did (and do) trade and enterprise play in processes of national identification? The early development of the modern Dutch economy was dependent on a broad cultural discourse about commerce and stock-trading. The commercial world wove an affective web, both discursively and in practice. In the politically, religiously and socially plural Republic, the market became a constant feature of the social fabric, something that remains the case today. One of the levels on which NL-Lab approaches this phenomenon is that of the advertising industry, which portrays and makes affective associations with the Netherlands. But which ‘Netherlands’ are we talking about? How does the Netherlands in ads relate to society as it is today?


The concept of the ‘affective economy’ can also help us to shine new light on knowledge societies and knowledge production. In a public climate where the value of (scientific) knowledge is being questioned, it is important to emphasise that knowledge is not only rational, but also affective: the process of establishing truth is dependent on sensory and emotional systems. NL-Lab is passionate about knowledge. We develop methods based on the principle of embodied learning: we learn by feeling, smelling and tasting, and through participatory research. The role of emotions in research processes also forms a key part of the projects by Leonie Cornips and Ernst van den Hemel.



Related projects



  • KNAW NIAS – Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Science

  • Descartes Centre for the History and Philosophy of the Sciences

  • Max Planck Institute for the History of Science Berlin

  • Lorentz Centre



Inger Leemans and Anne Goldgar (red.), Knowledge-Market-Affect: Early Modern Knowledge Societies as Affective Economies (Routledge 2020).


Marieke Hendriksen and Fokko-Jan Dijksterhuis (red.), Understanding Knowledge (Routledge, te verschijnen).


Inger Leemans, Blog – “Affectieve Kennis: wees emotioneel over wetenschap en democratie!”


See also