Ann Swidler

Ann Swidler

Professor of Sociology, University of California, Berkeley

November 15, 2016 — 4:10 PM
Alumni House — UC Berkeley Campus

Add to Google Calendar 11/15/2016 4:10 PM 11/15/2016 6:00 PM America/Los_Angeles Can We Create Good Institutions?

About the Lecture Global challenges like climate change and the institutional paralysis of nations’ political systems highlight the urgency of creating or restoring good political institutions. Yet students of politics have made little headway on this problem. “Good” institutions are … Continued

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About the Lecture

Global challenges like climate change and the institutional paralysis of nations’ political systems highlight the urgency of creating or restoring good political institutions. Yet students of politics have made little headway on this problem. “Good” institutions are those that create and maintain “collective goods”: peace and security, infrastructure and services (public health, education, economic opportunity), justice and the rule of law, and, at national and global levels, effective responses to climate change. Despite growing recognition that effective governance is essential for collective well being, research on governance typically focuses narrowly on promoting liberal democracy. Drawing on studies of chieftaincy in sub-Saharan Africa, villages in China, and politics across national contexts, this lecture highlights critical institutional features that most analysts of political institutions neglect: long temporal horizons, shared cultural and ritual forms, systems of status aggregation, narrative power, and elite consolidation.

About Ann Swidler

Ann Swidler is Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley. She has done influential work on culture, religion, and American society, including the now-classic article, “Culture in Action,” and books: Organization Without Authority, and Talk of Love, as well as the co-authored  Habits of the Heart, The Good Society, and Inequality by Design. Her newest book (with Susan Cotts Watkins) is A Fraught Embrace: The Romance and Reality of AIDS Altruism in Africa, forthcoming from Princeton University Press.

Swidler’s interest in culture and institutions led to the study of how societies in sub-Saharan Africa responded to the AIDS pandemic. Recent work analyzes global and local responses to the AIDS epidemic in Africa, looking at how the massive international AIDS effort interacts with existing African cultural and institutional patterns. Currently, she is examining how cultural models and institutional logics intersect in chieftaincies, NGOs, and religious congregations in Africa. Among other honors, Swidler has been a Guggenheim Fellow, French-American Foundation Professor of American Civilization, Fellow of the Successful Societies Program of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, Visiting Scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation, and Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 


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