Multidisciplinary Research Workshops 2008-2009


Forthcoming MRW

February 4th, 2009, Wednesday

Villa la Fonte, Conference Room


Lorraine Daston, Director, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin 

  • Monomania in Science

In the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, savants invented a new kind of happiness: the endless pursuit of knowledge about objects that had little or nothing to do with everyday human concerns – stars, caterpillars, fossils. Because each subject was a source of inexhaustible detail, curiosity about them was insatiable. Happiness consisted in the chase, the thrill of the hunt, rather than the satisfaction of ever arriving at a destination: the happiness of the process of coming to know, rather than that of the possession of knowledge. Moralists worried that this monomania was a form of addiction. By the mid-nineteenth century, scientific obsessions had come to be described as self-sacrificing work rather than self-indulgent pleasure, a happy slavery. This peculiar form of scientific happiness devoured all other joys: friends, family, fortune, and health. It was more addictive than gambling or opium and just as destructive. It challenged – and still challenges – any ideal of happiness as tranquility, contentment, or quiet contemplation. Scientific monomania is the happiness of those who are never at rest.

Paper for Workshop

Please view full invitation for workshop

April 22nd, 2009, Wednesday

Villa la Fonte, Conference Room


Emanuela Ceva, Institute for Advanced Study, University of Pavia and

Andrea Fracasso, School of International Studies, University of Trento

  • Seeking Mutual Understanding. A Discourse Theoretical Analysis of the WTO Dispute Settlement System

The Dispute Settlement System (DSS) of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is an interesting mechanism to settle international trade controversies by means of adversarial procedures. At least part of its interest may be accounted for on consideration that the WTO DSS is one of the few mandatory dispute settlement (DS) mechanisms applying to multilateral agreements. What is more, the DSS is quite unique as it combines in an original way procedural rules belonging to the “furniture” of other international legal organisations and well-established DS methods.

But, why is the DSS adversarial in kind and articulated through such sophisticated procedures? The answer for which we shall argue identifies the reasons of this characterisation in the general aims pursued by the WTO and the disputes with which it engages. More specifically, we shall try to show that the development of a structured but flexible DS mechanism is not a mere idiosyncrasy of the WTO. The formulation of a multi-layered adversarial mechanism including a complex system of procedures with diverse orientations is, rather, the result of a purposeful adaptation of the GATT provisions to the WTO general aims and the specific sorts of dispute arising among its Members.

This kind of question is not new in the literature addressing institutional design problems. However, most of the answers have looked into the matter from purely legal, political or economic perspectives, and have concentrated on specific substantive matters (e.g. the efficiency of the DSS, its capacity to deliver substantially fair outcomes or the effects of DS rulings on low income countries).

In order to make sense of the DSS specificity, we shall combine studies in the fields of politics, law and economics through philosophical analysis to look for a systemic answer to the question above in the inherent qualities of the procedures through which the DSS is articulated. Specifically, we shall resort to Jürgen Habermas’s discourse theory, as a hermeneutic device to disentangle the different kinds of “action orientations” DS procedures may have (compromise, consensus and understanding). In so doing, we shall try to check whether DSS procedures have been devised with the appropriate action orientations so as to set the conditions under which the settlement of disputes is consistent with the WTO general aims. 


Previous MRW


January 14, 2009, Wednesday

Villa la Fonte, Conference Room


Stephen Turner, Philosophy Department, University of South Florida

  • Theories or Models? Social Science as Science in the Post-War Period and Today

The period after the Second World War saw a massive effort to make the “behavioral sciences” into genuine sciences. The initiative was American, but it was exported to Europe and became part of the re-founding of sociology in many of those countries with a native sociology and a part of the identity of many of those where sociology was a novelty.

The “science” effort was understood in terms of a methodological strategy for producing “scientific” empirical results which would cumulate, together with expectations of how the strategy would lead to a unified body of theory.

The effort faltered almost immediately, but the remnants of the effort, including its ideas about what a theory was, what an empirical result was, and many of its ideas about the role of statistics and measurement, survived as part of the disciplines they influenced, especially sociology, social psychology, political science, and international relations, and in applied research.

These ideas were relentlessly criticized as “positivism” in the 1960s. And the model had important rivals in social science, especially causal modeling, from econometrics, and rational choice theory, from economics. The rivals, inspired in part by the success of operations research during the war itself, were models—explicitly predictive rather than realistic, and concerned with theory only in a different sense derived from economics.

I consider the coherence, fate, influence, and present relevance of these ideas, concentrating on two examples: Merton and Lazarsfeld and the Columbia model of theory construction and middle range theory, and on the field of international relations from Hans J. Morgenthau and Kenneth Waltz to the intense methodological discussions of the last two decades in this field.

These examples indicate what is living and what is dead in the postwar idea of social science as science, and point to the idea that social science understood as theoretical science was a mistake, but that social science does resemble science as practiced through models.

The examples also allow for a comparison with rival ways of thinking about social science as science, especially the idea that social science can be reconstituted as science by allying with evo-devo theory and cognitive science, and allow us to consider casual modeling as a paradigm of social science on its own—as a form of modeling science without theory.


December 3, 2008, Wednesday

Villa la Fonte, Conference Room


David Myers, Department of History, UCLA

  • An American Shtetl: Politics and Piety in Kiryas Joel, New York

This presentation will discuss the birth and rise of Kiryas Joel, New York, a legally recognized municipality in upstate New York comprised almost entirely of Satmar Hasidic Jews. 

The rise of the community over the past 35 years has occasioned much controversy, especially regarding the vaunted separation of church and state that stands at the heart of the American constitutional system. 

In particular, the attempt to create a state-sponsored public school district in Kiryas Joel prompted nearly fifteen years of litigation that made its way to the United States Supreme Court.

How and why does the American political system tolerate Kiryas Joel?  Could such a community arise in today’s Europe?  And what does Kiryas Joel teach us about the idea of the secular at this point in history?  These questions stand at the core of the presentation. 

Named after the Hungarian-born Satmar Grand Rabbi, Joel Teitelbaum (1887-1979), Kiryas Joel (Village of Joel) has a degree of homogeneity that few, if any, Jewish communities in the Diaspora ever possessed. 

Rabbi Teitelbaum’s impulse in encouraging supporters to buy land in upstate New York was to leave behind the seductions and allures of urban life in Brooklyn, to which the remnants of the Satmar community moved after the Holocaust.  

And yet, in creating this distinctive ethnic enclave, the community has displayed a degree of political sagacity and a willingness to engage state authorities that belie its insularity. 


In fact, this sagacity and willingness can be traced back to the community’s early years in Romania (formerly Hungary), when the Satmars foreswore contact with fellow Jews (and especially Zionists), but were willing to engage gentile political authorities. 

Historians remind us that traditionalist, and even separatist, religious groups such as the Satmar Hasidim are “children of the Enlightenment” no less than the avowedly secular. 

The Satmar’s utilization of modern political, rhetorical, and communications methods to create an insular community suggests a willing embrace of the tools of the surrounding milieu. 

At what point, does the tactical employment of such tools expose the group to values and principles that are seen as “foreign?”  At what point do those values and principles come to define the community? 

In the midst of substantial critiques of the entire notion of secularization, Kiryas Joel offers an interesting, rich, and counterintuitive complication to the story, affirming, it would seem, the way in which the secular and religious are inextricably entwined.


November 19, 2008, Wednesday

Villa la Fonte, Conference Room


Pippa Norris, Harvard University

  • Cultural Convergence? Cosmopolitan Communications and National Diversity


Pippa Norris' workshop will build on her forthcoming book ("Cultural Convergence" co-authored with Ronald Inglehart, CUP, Fall 2009).


Societies have experienced a flood of information from diverse channels originating far beyond local communities and even national borders, transmitted through the rapid expansion of mass communications. But the consequences, especially the impact of the penetration of the mass media into geographically-isolated cultures which were previously stranded at the periphery of modern communication grids, are far from clear.

Rejecting Cold War ideas about the threat of ‘cultural imperialism’ developed half a century ago, arguments about the ‘Coca-colonization’ of world culture which were fashionable during the 1990s, and contemporary fears about the loss of cultural diversity, this book develops a new theoretical framework for understanding the multiple firewalls limiting the reach and impact of cross-border information flows.

We theorize that the expansion of cosmopolitan communications will have most impact on societies characterized by integration into world markets, freedom of the press, and widespread access to the mass media. Parochial societies lacking these conditions are less likely to be affected.

Moreover within countries, many poorer social sectors continue to lack the resources and skills necessary to access the mass media. Important social psychological learning processes also serve to protect enduring values and attitudes. By neglecting the role of these firewalls, the risk to cultural pluralism arising from the spread of cosmopolitan communications has commonly been exaggerated.

This book outlines these ideas, and then lays out the evidence, drawing upon the World Values Survey, covering 90 societies worldwide from 1981-2007. Case studies provide more in-depth analysis. The broad comparative framework and the innovative multilevel research design allow the core propositions to be tested empirically.

For full abstract please see under "books" at:

Pippa Norris is the McGuire Lecturer in Comparative Politics at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government

October 29, 2008, Wednesday

Villa la Fonte, Conference Room

10.00-11.10 & 11.30-13.00

Andrea Ichino, Department of Economics, University of Bologna

  • On causality in economic research: the use of ‘natural experiments’ and ‘calibration’

Javier Díaz Giménez, Universidad Carlos III and IESE

  • Modeling in Economics and Three Slides on Calibration

Andrea Ichino, Abstract:

The problem of identifying and measuring the "causal effects of treatments" is at the heart of scientific research in all areas and in particular in social disciplines. The goal of this lecture is to present and discuss the "counterfactual approach" to the definition of causality which, starting from the medical literature, has increasingly influenced applied social research in the last twenty years. The logic of the "counterfactual approach" will be explored and compared with alternative approaches to the problem of causal inference. The lecture will continue with a brief non-technical illustration of why "randomized controlled experiments" constitute the natural way to make the counterfactual approach operational in practice and poses the question of why experiments are frequently used in medical disciplines but not for social policy. Finally, I will briefly illustrate three imperfect alternatives for the identification and measurement of causal effects, when randomized controlled experiments are not possible for technical or ethical reasons.


Javier Díaz Giménez, Abstract:

My talk will be extremely non-technical. I will discuss how macroeconomists go about building their models starting from scratch. First I will describe how we model the global economy. I will move on to tell you how we model countries. And I will tell you how we model governments, firms, and people. Yes, people: just like you and I. Finally, I will use three slides to tell you how we turn an abstract model economy into a model economy of a specific, real world country. Your favourite country. That is what we call calibration.

I will be around for the entire day and I will be available to discuss technicalities with whomever is interested. After the lecture.


October 15, 2008, Wednesday

Villa la Fonte, Conference Room


Kathryn Sikkink, University of Minnesota

  • The Justice Cascade: the Rise of Human Rights Trials in the World

There is a dramatic new trend in world politics toward holding past state officials individually criminally accountable for past human rights violations. Sometimes even heads of states are facing prosecution for human rights violations during their rule – these trials are taking place in international courts, like the trial of Milosovic in the Hague, in foreign courts, like the trial of Pinochet in the UK, and mainly in the domestic courts of the country where the human rights violation occurred. 

I argue that these international, foreign, and domestic human rights trials are all part of an interrelated trend in world politics towards greater accountability – a trend that my co-author Ellen Lutz and I have called the Justice Cascade. 

The justice cascade is one form of what Cass Sunstein has called a norm cascade: “a rapid, dramatic shift in the legitimacy of norms and actions on behalf of those norms.”  In this introductory chapter to my book manuscript, The Justice Cascade: From Impunity to Individual Criminal Accountability for Massive Atrocities,  I provide an overview of the trend towards greater individual criminal accountability for past human rights violations, and summarize the book’s answers to two main questions: what are the origins or sources of the Justice Cascade, and what are it effects? 

These issues are then used to explore broader issues in international relations about the role of sanctions and enforcement in compliance with international rules and law, and about sources and processes of changes in international politics. 


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