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Abstracts for Max Weber Lectures 2015-2016

Martin Weitzman, Harvard University

DSCN1678Why is the Economics of Climate Change so Difficult and Controversial?


21 October 2015, 17:00-18:30
Badia, Refettorio




The main goal of this lecture is to explain some of the reasons why the economics of climate change is such a frustrating subject. I will try to sketch a brief general overview of the economics of climate change, with emphasis on why this particular application of economic analysis presents special -- almost unique -- challenges to the economics profession.  

I think it is important for the educated public to grasp why it is so difficult and controversial for an economist to give sharp overall advice concerning what to do about climate change -- and why there are so many differences of opinion. 

I quickly cover topics like treatment of uncertainty, inter-generational discounting, international public goods, catastrophic climate change, and geoengineering.

Download the presentation slides (PDF)

Silvana Patriarca, Fordham University

Patriarcaabstract page
'Brown Babies' in Postwar Europe: 

The Italian Case (c.1945-1960)

18 Novemember 2015, 17:00
Badia Refettorio




By drawing on a variety of different sources (some of them archives only recently made available to the public), the lecture will engage the general issue of the persistence of the idea of race and its close entanglement with the idea of nation in post-1945 Europe by focusing on the racialization of the “brown babies,” namely the children of European women and non-white Allied soldiers born on the continent during and right after the war.  Similarly to what happened in Great Britain and Germany in the same years, these children in Italy were considered a “problem” in spite of their small numbers.  Because of their origin, but especially because of the color of their skin, they generally were seen as not really belonging in the nation.  Fantasies concerning their disappearance paralleled the elaboration of plans for their transfer to other countries.  The Italian case, however, had its own specificity, namely the extent to which prominent figures of the Catholic Church and more generally of the Catholic world, often former supporters of fascism and of colonialism, were involved in trying to “solve” this so-called “problem” in the early Cold War years.     

 Download the lecture from the EUI Research repository (CADMUS)

Peter Katzenstein, Cornell University


Lecture Katzenstein

“Anglo-American Civilization and the Dynamics of Globalization” 


9 December 2015, 17:00-18:30

Badia, Refettorio



Civilizations imbue contemporary world politics with pluralism, plurality and multiplicities that must be central in our analyses. Anglo-America and other civilizational communities encompassing nation-states are marked by balances of practice and power in areas as diverse as law, popular culture and finance. They point to a future full of surprises and contaminated cosmopolitanisms rather than recurrent realist and liberal sameness.

 Download the lecture from the EUI research repository (CADMUS)

Daniel Cohen, Paris School of Economics

Cohe"The Future of Growth"

Wednesday 20 January 2016, 17:00-18:30
Badia, Refettorio





Economists, when hard pressed to summarize economic history, boil it down to two events: i) the agricultural revolution, 2) the industrial revolution. Each has its own paradox. Agriculture aimed at feeding people properly, but usually led to famines. This is Malthus' law. As soon as the economic situation improves, demography explodes. The number of people, not the income per head, rises. In retrospect, it is extraordinary to think that such a simple law may have been ignored by agrarian societies.

With the industrial revolution, income per head has been on the rise. Yet another Malthusian law keeps operating, that we may fail to understand: Easterlin's paradox. Well-being stagnates, in the same way income had stagnated before. And it is as simple as Malthus’ law to understand. You are never satisfied with what you have, you want more. Growth, not wealth, is the goal of modern society.

What is then the future of growth? A religious war tears down the economic profession, dividing it between the believers and the heretics.  The optimists, the believers, follow the line of thinking of an author such as Ray Kurzweil, leader of transhumanism and author of The Singularity is Near. Moore’s law, he argues, will transform our lives in ways we cannot imagine. Flash disk could contain by 2050 all the information of a human brain. And before the end of the century, all of the world’s information could be downloaded onto the same disk… Pessimists like Robert Gordon stand at the exact opposite. Growth has been continuously declining. Growth in Europe or in Japan has been falling. In the US, the bottom 90% experienced zero growth of their income over the last 30 years. 55% of growth was captured by the top 1%. The digital revolution is not as exciting as the previous one. The smartphone is the only noteworthy product but it does not compare with electricity, cars, indoor plumbing…. Whom should we trust? And is it a matter of faith? This is the topic of the lecture that will revisit the question of understanding why growth has become a source of disappointment, both numerically and in terms in well-being. 

Sarah Birch, University of Glasgow 

birchThe Electoral Tango: The Evolution of Electoral Integrity in
Competitive Authoritarian Regimes 

17 February 2016, 17:00-18:30
Badia, Refettorio





In recent decades, the politics of electoral reform has revolved mainly around the implementation of democratic electoral principles rather than around the principles themselves. This means that electoral authoritarian leaders tend to employ forms of electoral abuse that entail giving unfair advantage to pro-regime electoral competitors, rather than excluding either voters or competitors from the electoral arena altogether. When such regimes become weakened, they tend to ramp up forms of manipulation that favour pro-regime political forces. This deterioration in election quality often serves as a focal point which mobilises both domestic and international pressure for electoral reform, as the erosion of established electoral rights generates grievances. Under the right circumstances, such mobilisation can lead to step changes in the quality of elections. This suggests that improvements in electoral integrity commonly follow increases in fraud, in a one-step-back-two-steps-forward pattern which is in several ways quite distinct from existing understandings of the relationship between elections and democratisation. This model, which I term the ‘electoral tango’, has implications for how we evaluate and address electoral malpractice in the contemporary world. 

Download the lecture from the EUI research repository (CADMUS)

Same-Sex Marriage and Backlash: Constitutionalism through the Lens of Consensus and Conflict

siegel abstract

Reva Siegel
(Yale University) 

16 March 2016, 17:00-19:00
Badia, Refettorio





In the decades before the United States Supreme Court recognized the right of same-sex couples to marry in Obergefell v. Hodges, Americans disdained, denounced, and debated same-sex marriage.  When state courts recognized the right of same-sex couples to marry, opponents passed laws and state constitutional amendments that defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman. This fierce conflict provoked argument about the capacity of courts to defend minority rights.

Critics argued that judicial judgments shutting down politics were counterproductive and provoked a backlash that exacerbated political polarization. Conversation about the backlash ranged widely from academics and advocates to judges.  These “realist” accounts of judicial review depicted courts as majoritarian institutions whose authority is tied to public consensus.

In this lecture, I will argue that the backlash narrative and the consensus model of constitutionalism on which it rests simultaneously underestimates and overestimates the power of judicial review.  The Court’s decision in Obergefell was possible not simply because public opinion changed, but also because the struggle over the courts helped change public opinion and forge new constitutional understandings.  Even so, Obergefell has not ended debate over marriage but instead has channeled it into new forms.  Constitutions do not merely reflect consensus; they also structure conflict.  I employ concepts of constitutional culture to explore how constitutions can give contested beliefs legal form and structure conflict in ways that help sustain community in disagreement. 

Download the lecture from the EUI research repository (CADMUS)

The State in Analytical and Normative Profile

Pettit abstract


Philip Pettit
(Princeton and Australian National University)

18 May 2016, 17:00-19:00
Badia, Refettorio




The organization of the state engages many variables. The state may be organized as an agent or as an apparatus of rules. If it is organized as an agent, it may be disciplined by popular or elite control.

If it is popularly controlled, the control may involve a mixed or unmixed constitution, and if it operates under a mixed constitution, a legislative majority may be given a privileged role, as in parliamentary systems, or denied such a role, as in presidential.

The delineation and adjudication of those possibilities presents an interesting analytical-cum-normative challenge and one that connects intriguingly with the history of political thought.

Britain and the European Union: Lessons from a Small Island



Sir Stephen Wall
(Official Historian of Britain and the EU and
former UK Permanent Representative to the European Union)
9 June 2016, 16:00-18:00
MW Common Room




The United Kingdom joined the European Community late and UK public support for European integration has always been half-hearted. In this lecture, Stephen Wall, former British Permanent Representative to the EU and EU adviser to Prime Minister Tony Blair, examines the role history and geography have played in shaping British attitudes; the extent to which Britain has been both brake and motor in EU policy-making and looks at the future shape of the EU, with or without Britain as a member.

Religious Dimensions of Political Conflict and Violence

Brubaker photo


Rogers Brubaker
University of California (UCLA)

15 June 2016, 17:00-19:00
Badia Refettorio




How should we understand the religious dimensions of political conflict and political violence?  One view sees religiously grounded conflict and violence as sui generis, with a distinctive logic or causal texture.  The alternative view subsumes them under political conflict and violence in general, or under the rubric of politicized ethnicity.   I seek to highlight both the distinctiveness of religiously informed political conflict and the ways in which many conflicts involving religiously identified claimants are fundamentally similar in structure and dynamics to conflicts involving other culturally or ethnically defined claimants.  I identify the distinctively religious stakes of certain political conflicts, informed by distinctively religious understandings of right order.  And I specify six violence-enabling modalities and mechanisms (though all can also enable nonviolent solidaristic or humanitarian social action): (1) the social production of hyper-committed selves; (2) the cognitive and affective construction of extreme otherhood and urgent threat; (3) the mobilization of rewards, sanctions, justifications, and obligations; (4) the experience of profanation; (5) the translocal expandability of conflict; and (6) the incentives generated by decentralized and hyper-competitive religious fields.   None of these violence-enabling modalities and mechanisms is uniquely religious; yet religious beliefs, practices, structures, and processes provide an important and distinctively rich matrix of such modalities and mechanisms.

Download the lecture from the EUI research repository (CADMUS)

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