Who Matters?​ How to Redefine Worth in Our Divided Societies

Cadario Lecture by Michèle Lamont, Professor of Sociology and African and African American Studies, Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies, Harvard University.

Who matters in society? Why are some people viewed as more legitimate or given greater status than others? How can we broaden the circle of who is considered worthy of recognition?

Growing inequality and the decline of the American dream have coincided with a mental health crisis across all social classes in the United States. In this context it is imperative to consider alternative sources of hope. Broadening recognition is gaining in appeal for significant segments of the population. To understand this phenomenon, Ms. Lamont will draw on her interviews with Gen Zs and change agents who are producing new narratives in entertainment, comedy, advocacy, art, impact investing, and other fields of activity. They are offering alternatives to neoliberal scripts of self. They feed recognition chains in response to political polarization and backlashes. These transformations point to a broadening of cultural citizenship, not only in the United States but also globally.

Michèle Lamont is Professor of Sociology and of African and African American Studies and the Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies at Harvard University. A cultural and comparative sociologist, she is the author or coauthor of four books and the editor of a dozen collective volumes/journal issues and over one hundred articles and chapters on a range of topics including culture and inequality, racism and stigma, academia and knowledge, social change and successful societies, and qualitative methods.

Her new book “Who Matters; How to Redefine Worth in our Divided World” will be published by Simon and Schuster (US) and Penguin (UK) in fall 2023. She co-chaired the advisory board to the 2022 UN Human Development Report, “Uncertain times, Unsettled Lives: Shaping our Future in a World in Transformation.” After directing the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University from 2014 to 2021, she leads its research cluster on Comparative Inequality and Inclusion. Recent honors include a Carnegie Fellowship (2019-2021), a Russell Sage Foundation fellowship (2019- 2020), the 2017 Erasmus prize and honorary doctorates from six countries. She served as the 108th President of the American Sociological Association in 2016-2017.

The Cadario Visiting Lecture in Public Policy is possible because of the generous support of Paul Cadario, Distinguished Fellow, Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy.