The question of what constitutes a good society has been debated since the time of Aristotle. While long the province of philosophers and political theorists, the debate about the good society has taken on renewed energy in recent decades as social scientists—most notably, economists, psychologists, and sociologists—have begun to systematically study issues of quality of life and societal well-being. Karabel's presentation will attempt to address the issue of the “good society” with comparative evidence from 20 wealthy democratic societies. The performance of the United States and other countries will be assessed in nine domains identified as essential components of a healthy, well-functioning society: Education, Mobility and Opportunity, the Economy, Health, the Polity, the Environment, Social Capital and Civil Society, Subjective Well-Being, and Crime and Incarceration. The presentation will conclude with a discussion of an Index of Societal Well-Being and its relationship to different varieties of capitalism.
Jerome Karabel is Professor of Sociology at the University of California at Berkeley. The recipient of many awards, his books include The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, which received the Distinguished Scholarly Book Award of the American Sociological Association, and The Diverted Dream: Community Colleges and the Promise of Educational Opportunity in America, 1900-1985 (with Steven Brint), which received the Outstanding Book Award of the American Educational Research Association.
Professor Karabel is the recipient of grants from the National Science Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the National Institute of Education, and in 1993-1994 he was a member of the School of Social Science at the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton. In 2009-2010, he was a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, where he was working on his current project, “American Exceptionalism, Social Well-Being, and the Quality of Life in the United States.” He writes frequently for non-academic audiences in such publications as The New York Times, The Huffington Post, The New York Review of Books, The Nation, The Los Angeles Times, and Le Monde Diplomatique, and has appeared on such television and radio shows as Nightline, Today, and All Things Considered.
Imagine you are given the following offer: You can choose to move to any country in the world, bringing along with you your job, your family, and your friends. Your move would be all expenses paid, you would immediately gain new citizenship, and you would automatically have facility with the language and customs of your new country. If given this offer, would you take it and move, or would you remain in the United States? It is likely that most Americans would choose to remain in the United States.