14th Social Research conference at The New School
Fairness: Its Role in Our Lives
April 14-15, 2005
John Tishman Auditorium 66 West 12th Street, NYC


Proceedings are published in Social Research Volume 73, Number 2 (Summer 2006). Audio of the complete conference and Q&A is available (in MP3 files).


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 that 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.


Thursday April 14, 2005

Session 1: Science Looks at Fairness

2:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Speakers: 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

6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
Speaker: 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

10:00 A.M - 1:00 p.m.
Speakers: 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

2:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
: 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

6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.
: 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


The director and founder (1988) of the Social Research conference series is Arien Mack, Alfred and Monette Marrow Professor of Psychology at The New School for Social Research, who has been the editor of Social Research since 1970. For the history of the conference series, visit the Social Research conference series site. For information about other public events at The New School, see the university calendar. Find information about the more than 70 degree programs offered at The New School. For general information about The New School, visit the Quick Facts page.


The conference was made possible with generous support from the Russell Sage Foundation.

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