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Fairness: Its Role in Our Lives

14th Social Research Conference April 14-15, 2005

Fairness is a central motivating force in our private and public lives. Who gets what, how is it distributed, and how do we feel about the parceling out of power, resources, access, even attention; when allocation and distribution lead to indignation? The results can be explosive: witness the civil rights movement in the United States or, earlier, the Revolutionary War; the overthrow of apartheid in South Africa; the experiment of the Soviet Union. Current examples abound, from the struggle for a Palestinian state to questions of how to handle taxation, health insurance, and social security in the USA.

Equality, justice, and social change all have their roots in our perceptions of fairness, and the very ability to perceive fairness is itself rooted in the behavior of our animal ancestors. It arises early in childhood, when it is echoed in the familiar cry of "That's not fair." Understanding what drives those perceptions, and examining how issues of fairness have played out through history, is key to effecting lasting change.

This conference brings scientists, policy makers, historians, philosophers, and economists together in a public forum, to explore research on perceptions of fairness and consider historical case studies in the context of that science. Our shared purpose is to move toward informed solutions to some of the serious social problems that now confront us.

This conference is supported The Russell Sage Foundation

To order the related issue of Social Research: An International Quarterly



Thursday April 14, 2005

Session 1: Science Looks at Fairness

Frans de Waal, C.H. Candler Professor of Primate Behavior; Director, Living Links, Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University

Jon Elster, Robert K. Merton Professor of Social Science, Columbia University

Herbert Gintis, Santa Fe Institute

Matthew Rabin, Edward G. and Nancy S. Professor of Economics, University of California at Berkeley Moderator: Nicholas Humphrey, School Professor, London School of Economics

Session 2: Keynote Address

John Edwards, 2004 Vice Presidential Candidate and former U.S. Senator from North Carolina

Friday April 15, 2005

Session 3: When Does Fairness Become an Issue? General Conditions That Give Rise To a Sense of Unfairness

Lawrence Bobo, Professor of Sociology, Director, Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, Stanford University

Jennifer Hochschild, Professor of Government and Afro-American Studies, Harvard University

Sidney Verba, Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor, Harvard University

Ira Katznelson, Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History, Columbia University Moderator: Victoria Hattam, Professor of Political Science, New School University

Session 4: Reasoning About Fairness and Unfairness in Law, Philosophy and Political Theory

Edna Ullmann-Margalit, Professor of Philosophy, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Alan Ryan, Warden, New College, Oxford University

Ian Shapiro, William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor and Chair, Political Science, Yale University Cass Sunstein, Karl N. Llewellyn Distinguished Service Professor of Jurisprudence, University of Chicago Law School Moderator: Richard Bernstein, Vera List Professor of Philosophy, New School University

Session 5: Fairness and Social Justice

Christian Barry, Editor, Ethics and International Affairs, Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs

Julian Le Grand, Richard Titmus Professor of Social Policy, London School of Economics

Richard Wilkinson, Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Nottingham Medical School

Adolfo Aguilar Zinser, Former Ambassador of Mexico to the UN and Professor, National Autonomous University of Mexico Moderator: Michael Cohen, Director, International Affairs Program, New School University

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