This workshop is organized by Peter Turchin, CSH External Faculty.
What processes explain social breakdown, recovery, and resilience is a “Big Question” in social and political sciences. The overwhelming majority of approaches testing various hypotheses about social resilience focus on “hard” data, such as climate change, food and water supply, demographic rates, trade and financial systems, and economic inequality. These data are “hard” in the sense that we know how to measure various quantities of interest. But what about difficult-to-quantify cultural and psychological processes that may also help us understand why people sometimes cooperate, and at other times cooperation breaks down? Without denying the importance of physical, demographic, and economic factors, we also need to investigate the possible role of such mechanisms, which most current approaches ignore.
One quantity that may be a key to understanding human resilience in the face of societal threat is the strength of social norms—whether norms are tightly or loosely enforced. The strength of social norms varies between different societies, and in the same society over time. How do we identify possible causal mechanisms that strengthened or weakened norms over the long run; and determine the relationship between norm strength and social outcomes?
A related question is, how do we investigate and measure emotive drivers of social breakdown and cohesion? Why does sometimes cooperation at the level of the whole society/polity is strong (and is supported by strong cooperative norms), and at other times it unravels, with most people shifting their loyalty and cooperation to narrow, partisan groups? How does culture (including dispositions, intentions, visions, and commitments) affect the ways in which national communities, or particular groups, perceive and respond to social crisis?
These are very difficult questions. The goal of the workshop is not to solve them during the two days of deliberation. Rather, we want to conduct a multidisciplinary conversation between very diverse fields: anthropology, social psychology, semiotics, history, and cultural evolution. The more concrete outcomes of the workshop will include working out a research agenda that would enable us to address the questions raised above, and identifying possible funding agencies to which research proposals could be pitched.
If you would like to participate in this workshop, please email to email@example.com