Series Information

Banner Image The "Globalism and Its Discontents: Point/Counterpoint" conversation series features Amherst College Professor, and host of NEPR's "In Contrast", Ilan Stavans and a guest engaging in thoughtful discussion and attempting to bridge the growing ideological divide in our nation.

The rise of populism worldwide today, personified by Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, is a fierce reaction to globalism policies of the past few decades. Anti-immigration movements in Europe and the United States, assaults on free speech; racial profiling; polarized politics; intolerance for gender, economic, and linguistic diversity; the building of walls and the renegotiation of international trade treaties; the tension between rural and urban communities; and the questioning of the basic tenets of pluralism are some of the symptoms. Democracy itself might be at peril.

This series is based on a course of the same name, taught by Professor Stavans. The course and associated event series received special funding by a generous gift of 36 Members of the 50th Reunion Class of 1970.

Interviews with previous guests, and others, are available through Ilan Stavans' NEPR show "In Contrast". Have a listen! 

Schedule of Events 

GEORGE WILL

Thursday, September 13, 7 p.m., Johnson Chapel

SASKIA SASSEN

Thursday, September 20, 7 p.m., Stirn Auditorium

JOSEPH STIGLITZ ’64

Friday, October 19, 4:30 p.m., Lipton Lecture Hall, Science Center

AMARTYA SEN

Tuesday, November 6, 7 p.m., Stirn Auditorium

MARTHA NUSSBAUM

Friday, November 30, 7 p.m., Stirn Auditorium

Event Information

GEORGE WILL

Thursday, September 13, 7 p.m., Johnson Chapel

Join Professor Stavans and guest George Will, as they open this year's conversation series. Will writes a twice-weekly column on politics and domestic and foreign affairs. He began his column with The Washington Post in 1974, and he received the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1977. He is also a regular contributor to MSNBC and NBC News. His books include: “One Man’s America: The Pleasures and Provocations of Our Singular Nation” (2008), “Restoration: Congress, Term Limits and the Recovery of Deliberative Democracy” (1992), “Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball” (1989), “The New Season: A Spectator’s Guide to the 1988 Election” (1987) and “Statecraft as Soulcraft” (1983). Will grew up in Champaign, Ill., attended Trinity College and Oxford University, and received a PhD from Princeton University.

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SASKIA SASSEN

Thursday, September 20, 7 p.m., Stirn Auditorium

Saskia Sassen is the Robert S. Lynd Professor of Sociology at Columbia University and a Member of its Committee on Global Thought, which she chaired till 2015. She is a student of cities, immigration, and states in the world economy, with inequality, gendering and digitization three key variables running though her work. Born in the Netherlands, she grew up in Argentina and Italy, studied in France, was raised in five languages, and began her professional life in the United States. She is the author of eight books and the editor or co-editor of three books. Together, her authored books are translated in over twenty languages. She has received many awards and honors, among them multiple doctor honoris causa, the 2013 Principe de Asturias Prize in the Social Sciences, election to the Royal Academy of the Sciences of the Netherlands, and made a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et Lettres by the French government.

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JOSEPH STIGLITZ ’64

Friday, October 19, 4:30 p.m., Science Center, Lecture Hall E110

Joseph E. Stiglitz '64 was born in Gary, Indiana in 1943. A graduate of Amherst College, he received his PhD from MIT in 1967, became a full professor at Yale in 1970, and in 1979 was awarded the John Bates Clark Award, given biennially by the American Economic Association to the economist under 40 who has made the most significant contribution to the field. He has taught at Princeton, Stanford, MIT and was the Drummond Professor and a fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. He is now University Professor at Columbia University in New York, where he is also the founder and Co-President of the university's Initiative for Policy Dialogue. He is also the Chief Economist of the Roosevelt Institute. In 2001, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in economics for his analyses of markets with asymmetric information, and he was a lead author of the 1995 Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. In 2011, Time named Stiglitz one of the 100 most influential people in the world. 

Stiglitz was a member of the Council of Economic Advisers from 1993-95, during the Clinton administration, and served as CEA chairman from 1995-97. He then became Chief Economist and Senior Vice-President of the World Bank from 1997-2000. In 2008 he was asked by the French President Nicolas Sarkozy to chair the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress, which released its final report in September 2009 (published as Mismeasuring Our Lives). He now chairs a High Level Expert Group at the OECD attempting to advance further these ideas. In 2009 he was appointed by the President of the United Nations General Assembly as chair of the Commission of Experts on Reform of the International Financial and Monetary System, which also released its report in September 2009 (published as The Stiglitz Report). Since the crisis, he has played an important role in the creation of the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET), which seeks to reform the discipline so it is better equipped to find solutions for the great challenges of the 21st century.

Stiglitz serves on numerous boards, including the Acumen Fund and Resources for the Future.

Stiglitz helped create a new branch of economics, "The Economics of Information," exploring the consequences of information asymmetries and pioneering such pivotal concepts as adverse selection and moral hazard, which have now become standard tools not only of theorists, but also of policy analysts. He has made major contributions to macroeconomics and monetary theory, to development economics and trade theory, to public and corporate finance, to the theories of industrial organization and rural organization, and to the theories of welfare economics and of income and wealth distribution. In the 1980s, he helped revive interest in the economics of R&D.

His work has helped explain the circumstances in which markets do not work well, and how selective government intervention can improve their performance.

In the last fifteen years, he has written a series of highly popular books that have had an enormous influence in shaping global debates. His book Globalization and Its Discontents (2002) has been translated into 35 languages, besides at least two pirated editions, and in the non-pirated editions have sold more than one million copies worldwide. In that book he laid bare the way globalization had been managed, especially by the international financial institutions. In two later sequels, he presented alternatives: Fair Trade for All (2005, with Andrew Charlton) and Making Globalization Work (2006). In The Roaring Nineties (2003), he explained how financial market deregulation and other actions of the 1990s were sowing the seeds of the next crisis. Concurrently, Towards a New Paradigm in Monetary Economics (2003, with Bruce Greenwald) explained the fallacies of current monetary policies, identified the risk of excessive financial interdependence, and highlighted the central role of credit availability. Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy (2010) traced in more detail the origins of the Great Recession, outlined a set of policies that would lead to robust recovery, and correctly predicted that if these policies were not pursued, it was likely that we would enter an extended period of malaise. The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict (2008, with Linda Bilmes of Harvard University), helped reshape the debate on those wars by highlighting the enormous costs of those conflicts. His most recent books are The Price of Inequality: How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future, published by W.W. Norton and Penguin/ Allen Lane in 2012; Creating a Learning Society: A New Approach to Growth, Development, and Social Progress, with Bruce Greenwald, published by Columbia University Press in 2014; The Great Divide: Unequal Societies and What We Can Do About Them published by W.W. Norton and Penguin/ Allen Lane in 2015; Rewriting the Rules of the American Economy: An Agenda for Growth and Shared Prosperity published by W.W. Norton in 2015, The Euro: How a Common Currency Threatens the Future of Europe published by W.W. Norton and Penguin/Allen Lane in 2016 and Globalization and Its Discontents Revisited: Anti-Globalization in the Era of Trump published by W.W. Norton and Penguin/Allen Lane in 2017.

Stiglitz's work has been widely recognized. Among his awards are more than 40 honorary doctorates, including from Cambridge and Oxford Universities. In 2010 he was awarded the prestigious Loeb Prize for this contributions to journalism. Among the prizes awarded to his books have been the European Literary Prize, the Bruno Kreisky Prize for Political Books and the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award. He is a fellow of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the Econometric Society, and a corresponding fellow of the Royal Society and the British Academy.

He has been decorated by several governments, including Colombia, Ecuador, and Korea, and most recently became a member of France's Legion of Honor (rank of Officier).

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AMARTYA SEN

Tuesday, November 6, 7 p.m., Stirn Auditorium

Amartya Sen, (born November 3, 1933, Santiniketan, India), Indian economist who was awarded the 1998 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his contributions to welfare economics and social choice theory and for his interest in the problems of society’s poorest members. Sen was best known for his work on the causes of famine, which led to the development of practical solutions for preventing or limiting the effects of real or perceived shortages of food.

Sen was educated at Presidency College in Calcutta (now Kolkata). He went on to study at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he received a B.A. (1955), an M.A. (1959), and a Ph.D. (1959). He taught economics at a number of universities in India and England, including the Universities of Jadavpur (1956–58) and Delhi (1963–71), the London School of Economics, the University of London (1971–77), and the University of Oxford (1977–88), before moving to Harvard University (1988–98), where he was professor of economics and philosophy. In 1998 he was appointed master of Trinity College, Cambridge—a position he held until 2004, when he returned to Harvard as Lamont University Professor.

Welfare economics seeks to evaluate economic policies in terms of their effects on the well-being of the community. Sen, who devoted his career to such issues, was called the “conscience of his profession.” His influential monograph Collective Choice and Social Welfare (1970)—which addressed problems such as individual rights, majority rule, and the availability of information about individual conditions—inspired researchers to turn their attention to issues of basic welfare. Sen devised methods of measuring poverty that yielded useful information for improving economic conditions for the poor. For instance, his theoretical work on inequality provided an explanation for why there are fewer women than men in some poor countries in spite of the fact that more women than men are born and infant mortality is higher among males. Sen claimed that this skewed ratio results from the better health treatment and childhood opportunities afforded to boys in those countries.

Sen’s interest in famine stemmed from personal experience. As a nine-year-old boy, he witnessed the Bengal famine of 1943, in which three million people perished. This staggering loss of life was unnecessary, Sen later concluded. He believed that there was an adequate food supply in India at the time but that its distribution was hindered because particular groups of people—in this case rural labourers—lost their jobs and therefore their ability to purchase the food. In his book Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation (1981), Sen revealed that in many cases of famine, food supplies were not significantly reduced. Instead, a number of social and economic factors—such as declining wages, unemployment, rising food prices, and poor food-distribution systems—led to starvation among certain groups in society.

Governments and international organizations handling food crises were influenced by Sen’s work. His views encouraged policy makers to pay attention not only to alleviating immediate suffering but also to finding ways to replace the lost income of the poor—as, for example, through public-works projects—and to maintain stable prices for food. A vigorous defender of political freedom, Sen believed that famines do not occur in functioning democracies because their leaders must be more responsive to the demands of the citizens. In order for economic growth to be achieved, he argued, social reforms—such as improvements in education and public health—must precede economic reform.

Sen was a member of the Encyclopædia Britannica Editorial Board of Advisors from 2005 to 2007. In 2008 India donated $4.5 million to Harvard University to establish the Amartya Sen Fellowship Fund to enable deserving Indian students to study at the institution’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Sen’s other writings include Development as Freedom (1999); Rationality and Freedom (2002), a discussion of social choice theory; The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture, and Identity (2005); AIDS Sutra: Untold Stories from India (2008), a collection of essays on the AIDS crisis in India; and The Idea of Justice (2009), a critique of existing theories of social justice.

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MARTHA NUSSBAUM

Friday, November 30, 7 p.m., Stirn Auditorium

Prolific and celebrated, Martha C. Nussbaum is one of the few contemporary philosophers who not only enjoys great esteem in academic quarters but is able to address large general audiences through her books and writings.
Nussbaum is the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago, with appointments in the law school and the philosophy department. The author of more than twenty books and numerous essays and articles, she is the editor of another twenty-one books and the recipient of many prestigious awards. A fellow of the British Academy, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a member of the American Philosophical Society, she has received honorary degrees from fifty-six colleges and universities in the U.S. and abroad. 

Breadth is a signature feature of her work. Her scholarship ranges from the study of ancient Greek and Roman philosophy and literature all the way to modern political theory and policy. Along the way, she has found time to examine such weighty matters as gender equality, gay rights, the nation of India, international development, and the case for an education in the humanities. Yet the variety of subject matter can sometimes disguise the underlying unity of purpose.  

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