CIFAR launches Successful Societies program
Successful Societies, a successor to the Human Development program and
|Renewal dates||2008, 2012|
|Supporters||BMO Financial Group Anonymous Donor|
|Sociology, including demography, social stratification, social theory and cultural sociology; political science, including comparative politics, political economy and comparative public policy; organizational, cultural and social psychology; political philosophy; history; economics
Kate Geddie, Senior Director, Research
Successful societies are those that create conditions that lead to better health, well-being and resilience for individuals and communities. The program aims to identify the cultural and social frameworks that put societies on a path toward greater and more equitable prosperity. It looks beyond simple economic analysis, and examines how an individual’s sense of identity and belonging within a culture can affect overall economic, physical and psychological well-being.
The Successful Societies program brings together academics from sociology, political science, political philosophy, history, economics, and organizational, cultural and social psychology to share insights and create new understandings about how societal structures facilitate or inhibit the flourishing of a society. The program bridges the gap between researchers interested in studying institutions and those who study culture. It shows how understanding the interaction of institutional and cultural frameworks gives meaningful insights into how societies create opportunities for individual fulfilment and happiness.
The program provides a broad framework for research and analysis, while also providing insights that directly inform debate about hard questions with public policy implications around the globe. Work by fellows in the program has informed policy around early childhood education, immigration, health policy and more.
In contrast to research groups that focus largely on income inequality as an economic or political phenomenon, the Successful Societies program considers how a wide range of social inequalities—including inequalities of gender, race, religion, class and income—are related to one another. Drawing on its interdisciplinary strengths, the program analyses the cultural and social processes that generate, reinforce or mitigate such inequalities. Since its launch in 2002, the program has produced two influential volumes: Social Resilience in the Neoliberal Era (2013) and Successful Societies: How Institutions and Culture Affect Health (2009). The first considers how 30 years of market-oriented policies around the world have affected societies’ changing values, culture and people’s sense of self. The contributors also consider the sources of social resilience in the face of the associated dislocation. Gérard Bouchard found that the province of Quebec resisted neo-liberal initiatives and sustained social well-being more successfully than some other parts of Canada. He attributes this resilience to the distinctive social economy of Quebec and the national myths central to its collective imaginary. Leanne Son Hing’s empirical research shows that despite their attachment to ideals of meritocracy, people who hold neoliberal values also tend to believe that people of different backgrounds are less deserving. Several contributors suggest that governmental provision of equal access to basic goods such as education, healthcare and social security may be crucial to narrowing health and income gaps.
Their work on social inequalities continues in recent collaborations and publications. In American Amnesia: The Forgotten Roots of Our Shared Prosperity, co-author Paul Pierson argues that the failure to sustain or update public policies that contribute to prosperity are inflicting growing social costs. David Grusky is exploring “the commodification of everything,” showing how inequalities are intensified when access to goods that were once provided by the family or public institutions are turned into commodities to be purchased. Other members are analysing ways to make societies more inclusive: they study the integration of first generation college students on campus (Hazel Markus), how institutions can facilitate social integration into full citizenship (Irene Bloemraad), the role of multicultural policy in such processes (Will Kymlicka), how various groups come to experience reduced stigmatization (Michele Lamont), and how workplaces can be made more inclusive (Son Hing). Ann Swidler is writing a book titled The Romance of AIDS Activism in Africa which investigates the uncomfortable meeting between donor organizations, professional brokers and individual altruists, and the poor villagers or urban dwellers who are the targets of their support. Peter Hall is studying how the transformation of work as the world enters an era of knowledge-based growth conditions inequality and aggregate well-being.
L. Li, C. Power, S. Kelly, and C. Hertzman, C. Kirschbaum, “Life-time socio-economic position and cortisol secretion patterns in mid-life,” Psychoneuroendocrinology 32, 7 (2007):824 -833. G. Bouchard, L’Interculturalisme. Un point de vue québécois. Montréal, Boréal, 2012. A. Swidler and S. Cotts Watkins, “‘Teach a Man to Fish’: The Sustainability Doctrine and Its Social Consequences,” World Development 37, 7 (July 2009):1182-1196. doi: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2008.11.002. W. Sewell, “Economic Crises and the Shape of Modern History,” Public Culture 24, 2 (2012): 302-27. P. Hall and M. Lamont, Social Resilience In The Neoliberal Era. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013.
Contact the program’s senior director, Kate Geddie at firstname.lastname@example.org
University of California, Berkeley
Université de Montréal
University of California, Irvine
University of British Columbia
University of Chicago
University of Guelph
Wilfrid Laurier University
Université du Québec à Chicoutimi
Advisory Committee Chair
University of California, San Diego
Sciences Po d'études européennes
The World Bank
Building on the program’s focus on institutions, CIFAR Senior Fellow
CIFAR Senior Fellow Jane Jenson (Université de Montréal) is the
With Charles Taylor, CIFAR Advisor Gérard Bouchard (Université du Québec
A book by CIFAR Senior Fellow Will Kymlicka (Queen’s University)
With several collaborators, CIFAR Senior Fellow Leanne Son Hing (University
CIFAR Associate Ann Swidler (University of California, Berkeley) explores the
In a book based on several years of collaboration, the
New research by CIFAR Associate Ann Swidler (University of California
CIFAR Fellow Ron Levi (University of Toronto) brings the insights
Inspired by the current world economic crisis, CIFAR Senior Fellow
Successful Societies, a successor to the Human Development program and the Population Health program, holds its first meeting in January 2003 at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences in Palo Alto, California. CIFAR Senior Fellow Michèle Lamont and CIFAR Senior Fellow Peter A. Hall (both Harvard University) are the co-directors.
As attention in the world of development turns toward the contribution that institutions can make to a nation’s well-being and prosperity, CIFAR Associate Peter Evans (University of California, Berkeley) authors a series of influential publications showing that transnational social movements are having an important impact on development trajectories. His research points to a crucial set of the social relations that increase the capacity of communities to respond to challenges extended across borders and countries.
P. Evans, “Development as Institutional Change: The Pitfalls of Monocropping and Potentials of Deliberation,” Studies in Comparative International Development 38, 4 (December, 2004): 30-53 doi: 10.1007/BF02686327.
B. Evans, “Economic Governance Institutions in a Global Political Economy: Implications for Developing Countries,” in John Toye (ed.), Trade and Development: Directions for the 21st Century, Cheltenham UK, Edward Elgar, 2003.
CIFAR Senior Fellow Clyde Hertzman (University of British Columbia) changes the direction of analysis on one of his main research projects, the Population Health and Learning Observatory, based on the wealth of new concepts he has developed through the Successful Societies program, particularly around the social processes that influence health. The project, which is funded by a Canadian Foundation for Innovation award, brings together health services, early developmental, educational, occupational, environmental and social data on a person-specific, longitudinal basis for the entire B.C. population for the past 20 years. Now called Population Data BC, the collection is one of the world’s largest, most comprehensive for population health, human development and health services research.
L. Oliver, J.R. Dunn, D. Kohen, C. Hertzman, “Do neighbourhoods influence the readiness to learn of kindergarten children in Vancouver? A multilevel analysis of neighbourhood effects,” Environment and Planning A(2004), doi: 10.1068/a37126.
Building on prior work and discussions in the program, CIFAR Fellow Daniel Keating (University of Michigan) develops a model that links the body’s adrenaline reaction to stress to social dominance and status. He also connects activity in the biological system that controls the neurotransmitter serotonin to social connectedness and ties the prefrontal basis of identity to social meaningfulness. Drawing these connections from biology through human development to the features of society has important implications for future research.
Building on the program’s focus on institutions, CIFAR Senior Fellow Peter A. Hall (Harvard University) examines how labor markets and financial markets interact. He shows how the organization of the political economy conditions the well-being of nations. He and his collaborators develop and test a model that suggests the outcomes of reforms to labour relations depend on how each country structures its corporate governance.
P. Hall and D. Gingerich, “Varieties of Capitalism and Institutional Complementarities in the Macro-Economy: An Empirical Analysis,” Max-Planck Institut für Gesellschaftsforschung Discussion Paper, Cologne, 04/5.
CIFAR Senior Fellow Jane Jenson (Université de Montréal) is the only non-European invited to contribute to the academic preparation of the British Presidency of the European Council in fall 2005. She draws on her research studying public health from the perspective of citizenship, explaining how the division of responsibility for various forms of care shifts from the state, family, market and civil society, changing citizenship regimes over time.
In a collection of essays that synthesize a lifetime’s work, CIFAR Senior Fellow William Sewell (University of Chicago) explores what historians and other social scientists have to learn from one another. While historians do not think of themselves as theorists, they know something social scientists do not, namely, how to think about the temporalities of social life. Social scientists’ treatments of social life as situated within the passing of time are often clumsy, the book argues; on the other hand, their theoretical sophistication and penchant for patterned accounts of social life offer much to historians.
In collaboration with Chris Power, CIFAR Senior Fellow Clyde Hertzman (University of British Columbia) makes a significant contribution to understanding how human experience gets under the skin. They complete the world's largest exercise in studying the influence of socioeconomic position over the life course on the secretion of the stress hormone cortisol.
With Charles Taylor, CIFAR Advisor Gérard Bouchard (Université du Québec à Chicoutimi) co-chairs the 2007-08 Bouchard-Taylor Commission on accommodation of minorities for the Government of Quebec. Their recommendations call for Quebec to establish new processes that institutionalize interculturalism. In further work, Bouchard has outlined how interculturalism in Quebec can provide a model for managing ethno-cultural diversity in many settings. The distinctive characteristic of this model is an attempt to find an equilibrium between competing requirements including individual rights, protection of diversity, integration, maintenance of a societal symbolic foundation, and development of a common culture.
A book by CIFAR Senior Fellow Will Kymlicka (Queen’s University) assesses efforts to diffuse ideas and policies associated with ‘multiculturalism’ across national boundaries. He finds that, when they are inattentive to local realities, those programs often have effects that are the reverse of those intended. But he concludes that the liberal multicultural project is worth pursuing, however challenging the conundrums it poses in different societal contexts.
Together with Mario Small, a Senior Fellow in the Social Interactions, Identity & Well-Being program, CIFAR Senior Fellow Michèle Lamont (both Harvard University) publishes a paper bringing the latest findings of cultural sociology to the problem of how culture shapes poverty and how cultural differences express poverty. In a report on the impact of culture on poverty for UNESCO, they assess how cultural interventions can help alleviate poverty and reduce stigma for low income populations.
M. Lamont and M.L. Small, “How Culture Matters: Enriching our Understanding of Poverty,” pp. 76-102 in David Harris and Ann Lin (eds), The Colors of Poverty: Why Racial and Ethnic Disparities Persist, New York: Russell Sage, 2010
Lamont, M., Small, M.L. and Harding, J. “Introduction: Reconsidering Culture and Poverty,” The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 629, 1 (May, 2010):6-27 doi: 10.1177/0002716210362077.
With several collaborators, CIFAR Senior Fellow Leanne Son Hing (University of Guelph) develops and tests a theory of prejudice that compares implicit and explicit attitudes. In computerized tests that use instant responses, those who are more implicitly prejudiced are quicker to connect concepts that reinforce a negative stereotype. The researchers find implicit attitudes predict discrimination better than explicitly prejudiced attitudes. This work helps to resolve long-standing debates in the field regarding aversive racism, modern racism and principled conservatism.
CIFAR Associate Ann Swidler (University of California, Berkeley) explores the social conditions that facilitate the prevention of HIV infection in Africa, where the epidemic is ravaging many populations. Finding that the most popular approaches to AIDS intervention — such as counseling, condoms, and sexual abstinence — are having negligible effects on the spread of infection she argues for giving priority to new strategies based on male circumcision and reducing the number of sexual partners, which offer greater promise for prevention.
CIFAR Fellow Ron Levi’s (University of Toronto) research challenges the conventional wisdom that immigrant youth are responsible for high levels of crime in some societies. Based on a large-scale study in the Toronto area, he finds that first-generation immigrant youth are less likely than adolescents born in the country to engage in criminal activities and second-generation youth are no more likely than their native counterparts to do so. His research suggests that bonds to family and schools, as well as a commitment to education, render immigrant youth averse to the risks associated with petty crime.
J. Hagan, R. Levi and R. Dinovitzer, “The Symbolic Violence of the Crime-Immigration Nexus: Migrant Mythologies in the Americas” (policy essay), Criminology & Public Policy 7 (2008):95-112, doi: 10.1111/j.1745-9133.2008.00493.x.
CIFAR Senior Fellow Michèle Lamont (Harvard University) completes a study of the ways in which various disciplines in the social sciences and the humanities develop and deploy alternative criteria for evaluation, reflected in the judgments their members make about research proposals and the processes through which they reach those judgments. The book makes an argument in favor of intellectual pluralism as a marker of successful societies. This research informs the work of a blue-ribbon panel evaluating peer review practices at the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada and is incorporated into a major report on the evaluation of qualitative research in the social sciences prepared for the National Science Foundation.
In a book based on several years of collaboration, the fellows of the Successful Societies program explore the social roots of health inequalities, arguing that inequalities in health are based not only on economic inequalities but on the structure of social relations. The book integrates recent research in social epidemiology with broader perspectives in social science to explore why some societies are more successful than others at improving population health. Complementing previous insights on the importance of networks and other resources for health, this book emphasizes the ways in which cultural frameworks interact with institutions to condition well-being.
In new work with Susan Cott Watkins, CIFAR Associate Ann Swidler (University of California, Berkeley) argues that international donors who insist the programs they sponsor should be “sustainable,” ironically, undermine their own causes. The authors show, using data on AIDS programs in Malawi that are funded by donors, that the emphasis on sustainability ends up being self-defeating, expending most resources on "training" that the local people don't really need, and failing to pay for the jobs and the actual assistance they really do need.
Following up his path-breaking work on the state in the 20th century, CIFAR Associate Fellow Peter Evans (University of California, Berkeley) examines the “21st century developmental state.” He argues that successful development in South Africa will depend on a shift from industrialization, exemplified by Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea, known as the East Asia Tigers, toward investment in the expansion of human capabilities. Influenced by the Successful Societies program and Amartya Sen, Evans explores the requisites for a state that uses infrastructure as well as services such as health and education to build a society with skilled, healthy workers who can compete in a global marketplace.
New research by CIFAR Associate Ann Swidler (University of California, Berkeley) describes how African societies with intact African chiefdoms and religious institutions tend to have better governance than those where foreign interventions have neglected or eroded traditional forms of government. Swidler explores how NGOs, such as those that flooded into Africa to combat the AIDS epidemic, can sometimes decrease the accountability of local governments and other actors and affect social trust and social capital. She finds approaches that incorporate and adapt to the culture, rather than disrupting it, can earn the local community’s trust and respect and become much more successful.
A. Swidler, “Dialectics of Patronage: Logics of Accountability at the African AIDS-NGO Interface,” in Heydemann, S. and Hammack, D. eds. Philanthropic Projections: Sending Institutional Logics Abroad, Indiana University Press, 2010.
CIFAR Fellow James Dunn (McMaster University) completes a large body of research on subsidized housing attentive to how the organization of space affects social relations. It forms part of his large-scale, ongoing study of the redevelopment of Regent Park, one of Toronto’s best-known efforts to provide low-cost housing. Dunn’s research results in a large report for Human Resources and Social Development Canada on place-based policies — those built in collaboration with and tailored to individual areas and communities — co-authored with CIFAR Global Scholar Alumni Joshua Evans (Athabasca University).
J.R. Dunn, N. Bradford and J. Evans, “Place-Based Policy Approaches – Practical Lessons and Applications for Community Development and Partnership Directorate,” Ottawa: Human Resources and Social Development Canada (2010).
CIFAR Senior Fellow Jane Jenson (Université de Montréal) completes a long-term research program on the dimensions of a social investment perspective, which is defined by policy ideas that put children’s needs first, investing in a future with less disadvantage and marginalization for the next generation. She publishes several agenda-setting papers that explore how social policy is used in a range of countries to buttress the social inclusion of more vulnerable segments of the population. These studies offer a concrete illustration of the value of an approach by which institutions work to strengthen the social position of groups and mould the social and symbolic boundaries that define social citizenship and belonging.
J. Jenson, “A new politics for the social investment perspective: Objectives, instruments and areas of intervention in welfare regimes,” pp. 21-44, In G. Bonoli & D. Natali, eds. The Politics of the New Welfare State, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.
J. Jenson, “Redesigning citizenship regimes after neoliberalism. Moving towards social investment,” pp. 61-90. In N. Morel, B. Palier, & J. Palme,Towards a social investment welfare state? Ideas, policies and challenges,Bristol: Policy Press, 2012.
How do people experience discrimination and how do they cope with it? CIFAR Senior Fellow Michèle Lamont (Harvard University) co-edits a special issue of The Du Bois Review featuring the work of Successful Societies Advisor Gérard Bouchard (Université du Québec à Chicoutimi) Fellows James Dunn (McMaster University) and Ron Levi (University of Toronto) and Senior Fellow Leanne Son Hing (University of Guelph). The volume sheds new light on the mechanisms ordinary people use to cope with experiences of discrimination. It also explores mechanisms to build collective identity, such as young Canadians’ birth right trips to Israel. Lamont and her coauthors write an introduction that ties these contributions to the broader agenda of the Successful Societies program: improving our understanding of social inclusion as a central dimension of societal success. Lamont also publishes results from an ambitious collaborative study of how members of ethnic minorities respond to discrimination and negative stereotypes, looking at Brazil, the U.S. and Israel.
M. Lamont and N Mizrachi, “Ordinary people doing extraordinary things: responses to stigmatization in comparative perspective,” Special issue of Ethnic and Racial Studies 35, 3 (2012) doi: 10.1080/01419870.2011.589528.
CIFAR Fellow Ron Levi (University of Toronto) brings the insights of a sociologist and a scientist to the problem of understanding how international law is developed and applied. He explores why international criminal tribunals prosecuting war crimes have been successful in a context where international law often remains underdeveloped or unenforced. He finds that those tribunals can assemble a toolkit built from both international law and criminal law, which renders their work more effective than one would normally expect, and in recent work he extends this approach to research on human rights and humanitarian interventions.
R. Levi and H. Schoenfeld, “Médiation et droit pénal international: Le façonnage des outils de poursuite des crimes de guerre” (“Mediating International Criminal Law: Forging The Tools of War Crimes Prosecution”), Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales 174 (2008):4-23 doi: 10.3917/arss.174.0004
R. Levi and J. Hagan, “Lawyers, Humanitarian Emergencies, and the Politics of Large Numbers.” pp. 13-47 in Lawyers and the Construction of Transnational Justice, ed. Y. Dezalay & B. Garth. New York: Routledge, 2012.
Inspired by the current world economic crisis, CIFAR Senior Fellow William Sewell (University of Chicago) assesses the place of economic crises in the longer history of capitalism. Combining perspectives from Karl Marx, Joseph A. Schumpeter, Hyman Minsky and Giovanni Arrighi, his research moves from crises to the business cycles that produce them, to the long-term rhythms of capitalist development. It provides a look at the current crisis from the point of view of these longer rhythms.
In collaborative work, CIFAR Senior Fellows Peter A. Hall (Harvard University, Arjumand Siddiqi (University of Toronto), Clyde Hertzman (University of British Columbia) and Global Scholar Alumni Chris McLeod (University of British Columbia) explore how comparing varieties of capitalism and welfare states can help us understand health inequalities within and between societies. The results show how differences between the institutions that govern labour markets in given countries condition the impact that unemployment takes on people’s health. Focusing on a German/American comparison, they show how and why unemployed Americans, especially of low education, have worse health outcomes than the Germans.