When communities or individuals are exposed to challenges, how do they sustain their well-being? How do institutions and culture affect a society’s resilience in difficult times? How are inequalities produced and what kinds of inequalities are most detrimental to social well-being? How are robust institutions and communities with strong collective capability generated and maintained?
These are a few of the diverse questions addressed by scholars in CIFAR’s Successful Societies program. Mobilizing interdisciplinary enquiry, this program takes multiple approaches to investigating the question: what makes a society successful? By bringing together specialists in cultural and political sociology, political economy, epidemiology, history and social psychology, the researchers in this CIFAR program gain a better understanding of the multiple dimensions of social relations that bear on social resilience, inequality and population health. This broader perspective also carries important implications for public policies aimed at advancing the capacities of people and societies to prosper in the face of challenges.
In its new term, program members are investigating how institutions, networks, cultural frames and myths influence social life. The program seeks a better understanding of how social relations condition the capabilities of individuals for securing fulfilling lives and the capacities of communities for effective collective development at national and local levels. The program is exploring the roots and effects of multiple kinds of inequalities, bearing on income, ethnicity, identities, opportunities and basic life chances, often focusing on how they intersect and how they impinge on the collective capabilities of communities. With an emphasis on how cultural frames influence society and interact with institutions, the program members are shedding new light on how societies change and on how social and cultural processes advance or limit a society’s collective well-being.
The Successful Societies program was inspired by the accomplishments of CIFAR's Population Health and Human Development programs, which concluded in 2003. These programs advanced our understanding of the social determinants of health and of how early childhood experiences affect well-being throughout life. The next step is to think about social determinants in new and innovative ways, rooted in the interaction between culture and institutions.