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Abstracts for Max Weber Lectures

Back to list of Max Weber Lectures 2012-2013


Jan deVries, University of California Berkeley

Jan deVries

"The Return from Narrative: Post-Cultural History and the Social Science"

17 October 2012 at 17.00, Villa La Fonte, Conference Room


Social scientific history in its various forms developed rapidly and enjoyed great influence in the 1960s and 70s. Around 1980 it was quickly and, in the United States decisively, eclipsed. An influential article predicting and announcing this shift was Lawrence Stone's, "The return of narrative", of 1979.

This lecture takes Stone's criticisms of social scientific history as its starting point, discusses the nature of the estrangement between history and the social sciences, and offers evidence that new questions are bringing history and the social sciences closer together again

Jo Shaw, University of Edinburgh

Jo Shaw

"Citizenship as a Space of Law"

21 November 2012 at 17.00, Villa La Fonte, Conference Room



Citizenship’ has been claimed by many disciplines. It can be seen, from a legal perspective, as the formal bond between an individual and a state or indeed a non-state entity such as a supranational association of states or a subnational entity within a state.

From a political theory perspective, citizenship is paradigmatically about the claims of individuals and groups to political membership of a given polity. In Arendtian terms, it is about the right to have rights and to be part of the constituent power, although liberals, communitarians and critical theorists might disagree about how broadly this power should be defined and what specific rights should attach to being part of it.

Sociologically speaking, citizenship is a membership space within a given society or community, filled out and given content through the interplay of multiple social and economic relations, especially those involving social and economic power. Yet despite the extent and variety of the attention given to it, or perhaps because of this, citizenship still remains in large measure a black box. Frequently invoked, but less frequently unpacked.

In this lecture, I will develop an approach to understand citizenship as a relational construct, within the framework of a paradigm of relations of law, by looking at the tensions which construct it as a space of law. Citizenship is a space within which status, rights and identity issued are contested, constructed and sometimes traded.

I therefore argue that a useful way of unpacking the black box of citizenship as regards the role of law in relation to citizenship is to think about citizenship as a ‘space of law’, across which various tensions are in play.

The main purpose of this paper is to map out this space, elaborating on six key tensions which shed more light upon the character of law as a system of norms and regulations, both restrictions and protections, that creates and defines that space and its limits (Section 3). In fact, the argument runs that these tensions in practice constitute the notion of citizenship as a ‘space of law’. This is not an approach which purports somehow finally to resolve the many contestations which mark any and all debates about the notion of citizenship, but it does provide a richer articulation of the mutable relationship between citizenship and law, as well as setting it in its specific historical, geographical and political context.

Lawrence Lessig, Harvard law School

Lawrence Lessig

"The Integrity and Independence of Policymakers"

19 December 2012 at 17.00, Villa La Fonte, Conference Room


The Nature of the Corruption that is the Government of the United States: "Corruption" evolves. Old styles become new. In this talk, Professor Lessig maps the precise architecture of the corruption that affects the United States government, and how it has debilitated America's ability to address its most pressing issues.

Francois Bourguignon, Paris School of Economics

François Bourguignon

"The Globalization of Inequality"

16 January 2013 at 17.00, Villa La Fonte, Conference Room


Is globalization responsible for the unexpected present increase in inequality in the world? Could it wreck all hopes for more equity and social justice? Actually, globalization had two opposite effects. On the one hand, it contributed to diminishing global inequality, thanks to the growth performances of emerging countries. The gap between the standard of living in China, India or Brazil and that of the United States has indeed dropped substantially. In less than two decades, 500 million people were lifted out of extreme poverty. But, on the other hand, inequality surged in a number of countries, after a long period of stability, feeding the sense that our societies are increasingly unfair and raising social tensions of which los indignados and Occuppy Wall Street are symptomatic.

This presentation examines various elements of this paradoxical opposition between rising national and declining global inequality as well as some instruments in the hands of policy makers to control it. Global development must indeed keep making standards of living closer across countries. But progress will be effective and sustainable only if it obeys basic equity principles within nations.

Tariq Modood, University of Bristol

Tariq Modood

"The Strange Non-Death of Multiculturalism"

20 February 2013 at 17.00, Villa La Fonte, Conference Room


One of strange features of the ‘Multiculturalism is dead’ discourses is that they now define ‘multiculturalism’. It is now commonplace for even neutral commentators to define multiculturalism as a view which emphasises difference at the expense of commonality, separatism rather than mixing, group rather than national identities, relativism rather a defence of democratic values. Yet no evidence is ever offered by reference to academic texts, political speeches or actual policies that any of this has ever been promoted by multiculturalists. This rhetorical strategy has been so successful that even those who defend multiculturalism today prefer to use a vocabulary of ‘multiculture’ and ‘interculturalism’.

I challenge this strategy by arguing that multiculturalism is a mode of integration, which can be contrasted with other modes such as assimilation, individualist-integration and cosmopolitanism, and like the others it is based on the core democratic values of liberty, equality and fraternity/unity. 

Tim Besley, London School of Economics

Tim Besley

"Human Nature and Institution Design"

5 June 2013 at 17.00, Villa La Fonte, Conference Room (new date)


Economists often begin their analyses with a view of human nature based on two stylized postulates: that people are on the one hand rational and the other self-interested. Much of our understanding of alternative institutional arrangements is based on examining the implications of this view of human nature in different settings. Moreover, this approach has been particularly influential in the field of political economy, shaping our understanding of the role of political institutions in influencing policy outcomes. This lecture will discuss the consequences of using a less stylized view in light of recent research on behavioural frailties and pro-social motivation, particularly as applied to principal-agent relationships . As applications, it will focus on the value of democratic institutions and the case for social business.  

Archon Fung, Harvard University

Archon Fung

"Viral Engagement: Fast, Cheap, and Broad, but good for Democracy?"

17 April 2013 at 17.00, Villa La Fonte, Conference Room


In 2011 and 2012, several high profile campaigns spread with unexpected speed and potency. These “viral engagements” include the mobilization that scuttled the Stop Online Piracy Act, popular protest against the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s decision to stop funding Planned Parenthood, 100 million views of KONY 2012 video on YouTube and its subsequent criticism and defense, and on-line activism around the shooting of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida. This paper examines three aspects of these viral campaigns as form of political engagement. First, is there a common structure of mobilization and spread? Some have argued that these viral campaigns synthesize conventional social and political networks but amplify the messages that spread through those networks through the speed of digital communication. Second, what are the potential contributions of this fast, cheap, and thin mode of engagement to democracy? We examine the implications of viral engagement for four critical democratic values: inclusion, public deliberation, political equality, and civic education.

Joan Wallach Scott, Institute for Advanced Study, School of Social Science 


"Women and Religion"

15 May 2013 at 17.00, Villa La Fonte, Conference Room


This paper explores the connections made between religion and women by French secularizers in the 19th century as a way of understanding the effects of what Max Weber called "disenchantment." It asks how differences of sex figured in anti-clerical writings (particularly those of Jules Michelet). And it argues that the conflation of women and religion, an aspect of their simultaneous privatization and their designation as "irrational," helped secure the place of the difference of sex as the ontological ground for political and social organization in the nations of the West from the 17th century onwards

Karl-Ulrich Mayer, Yale University / Max Planck Institute for Human Developlment

Karl-Ulrich Mayer

"From "Science as a Vocation" (1918) to "Horizon 2020" (2012) - changing Vocabularies of Motives and Rationales for Research"

19 June 2013 at 17.00, Villa La Fonte, Conference Room


In this lecture, I reconstruct the position of Max Weber in “Science as a Vocation” with regard to the motivation of scholars. I will contrast Weber’s position with the current debate on basic vs. applied science and offer a critical review of the European research policy. A particular focus will be on Horizon 2020 and the role of social sciences and the humanities therein.

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