Martin Kolmar

Martin Kolmar

Martin Kolmar

Prof. Dr.

Professor of Economics with special focus on Applied Microeconomics

Büro 54-207
Girtannerstrasse 6
9010 St. Gallen
Main Focuses

Martin Kolmar’s recent research interests cover three interrelated areas. First, he develops a comprehensive critique of the epistemic, ontological, and normative foundations of mainstream economics. The purpose of this critique is second to develop alternative normative foundations that are based on research from evolutionary psychology, psychology, neuroscience, and narratology. The findings from these areas reveal patterns of human behavior, perception, development, and wellbeing that are closely related to concepts from virtue ethics and that give rise to perceptions of individual wellbeing, the role of the individual and society, and economic policies that are radically different from mainstream economics. His third main focus is the development of a theory of the sublime in modern society. From its very beginning there have been two competing narratives regarding secular (post-) modernity, a positive story of success and a negative story of alienation and disenchantment. Whereas mainstream economics short circuits questions regarding meaning of life and purpose with the maximization of preferences, virtue ethics has to address these questions more directly. Interestingly, meaning seems to be very closely related to experiences of the sublime, and these experiences can also be used as a unifying concept to interpret several important processes in modern, western societies. The purpose of this project is to develop a theory of the societal and individual consequences of sublime experiences. His research brings together research from economics, philosophy (epistemology, ontology, aesthetics, and ethics), evolutionary psychology, psychology, neuroscience, and narratology.

Fields of research

Normativity in economics

Theories of justice, justice between generations

Economics with focus on Applied Microeconometrics

Neuroscience, evolutionary biology, and psychology of perception, behavior, and wellbeing

Theory of contests and endogenous institutions

Further fields of research


The sublime and the foundations of modern society

Economics and happiness

  • University of Konstanz, “Habilitation” 2002, 
  • “Essays on the Economics of Conflict”University of Konstanz, PhD 1997, 
  • “Social Policy in the European Union”University of Bonn, Diploma 1993  
Professional Career

Chairs or Professorships at the Universities of Göttingen, and Mainz, Long-Term Research projects at the Universities UC Berkeley, San Francisco State University, and Brown University 

Teaching Activities

Principles of Economics (Undergraduate), Economics and Ethics (Graduate), Modern Theories of Justice (Graduate), Beyond Homo Economicus (Graduate), Narrative Lost (Graduate), Ökonomie des Glücks (Undergraduate) 

  • The sublime and the foundations of modern society
  • Mismatch: towards a new foundation of normative economics 

Martin Kolmar is a member of several academic associations. 

  • Knut-Wicksell Award, European Public Choice Society
  • European Investment Bank Award
  • Schiesser-Allweiler Award, best Dissertation, University of Konstanz
  • Best Teaching Award, University of Mainz 2003, 2004, 2005 

Martin Kolmar publishes regularly in journals and newspapers like NZZ, FAZ, Die Zeit, Der Spiegel, or Wirtschaftswoche.