At a Glance

Founded2002
Renewal dates2008, 2012
Members20
SupportersBMO Financial Group Anonymous Donor
Disciplines
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

CIFAR Contact

Rachel Parker, Senior Director, Research

Why are some societies more successful than others?

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.

Our unique approach

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.

A detail from the cover of the book Successful Societies, edited by program Co-Directors Peter A. Hall and Michèle Lamont.

Why this matters

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 depth

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.

Selected papers

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, Rachel Parker at rachel.parker@cifar.ca

READ 2016’s ANNUAL UPDATE 

 

Fellows & Advisors

Photo of Michèle Lamont

Michèle Lamont

Program Co-Director

Michèle Lamont studies inequality, race and ethnicity, the evaluation of social science knowledge, and the impact of neoliberalism on advanced industrial societies. Her scholarly interests center on shared concepts of…

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Photo of Paul Pierson

Paul Pierson

Program Co-Director

Paul Pierson’s teaching and research includes the fields of American politics and public policy, comparative political economy, and social theory.

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Fellows

Irene Bloemraad

Senior Fellow

University of California, Berkeley

United States

David B. Grusky

Senior Fellow

Stanford University

United States

Peter A. Hall

Associate Fellow

Harvard University

United States

Jane Jenson

Associate Fellow

Université de Montréal

Canada

Will Kymlicka

Senior Fellow

Queen's University

Canada

Francesca Polletta

Senior Fellow

University of California, Irvine

United States

Paige Raibmon

Senior Fellow

University of British Columbia

Canada

William H. Sewell

Associate Fellow

University of Chicago

United States

Prerna Singh

Fellow

Brown University

United States

Leanne S. Son Hing

Senior Fellow

University of Guelph

Canada

Anne E. Wilson

Fellow

Wilfrid Laurier University

Canada

Advisors

Gérard Bouchard

Advisor

Université du Québec à Chicoutimi

Canada

Wendy Espeland

Advisor

Northwestern University

United States

Peter Gourevitch

Advisory Committee Chair

University of California, San Diego

United States

Patrick Le Galès

Advisor

Sciences Po d'études européennes

France

Hazel Markus

Advisor

Stanford University

United States

Vijayendra Rao

Advisor

The World Bank

United States

Global Scholars

Kristi Kenyon

CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar

University of Winnipeg

Canada

Kristin Laurin

CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholar

University of British Columbia

Canada

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