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For all the recent discoveries of behavioral psychology and experimental economics, the spirit of homo economicus still dominates the contemporary disciplines of economics, political science, and sociology. Turning back to the earliest chapters of political economy, however, reveals that pioneering figures such as Francis Bacon, Thomas Hobbes, and Adam Smith were hardly apostles of economic rationality as they are often portrayed in influential narratives of the development of the social sciences. As we will see, while all three of these thinkers can plausibly be read as endorsing “rationality,” they were also well aware of the systematic irrationality of human conduct, including a remarkable number of the cognitive biases later “discovered” by contemporary behavioral economists. Building on these insights I offer modest suggestions for how these thinkers, properly understood, might carry the behavioral revolution in different directions than those heretofore suggested.
Resilience is a cross-disciplinary concept that is relevant for understanding the sustainability of the social and environmental conditions in which we live. Most research normatively focuses on building or strengthening resilience, despite growing recognition of the importance of breaking the resilience of, and thus transforming, unsustainable social-ecological systems. Undesirable resilience (cf. lock-ins, social-ecological traps), however, is not only less explored in the academic literature, but its understanding is also more fragmented across different disciplines. This disparity can inhibit collaboration among researchers exploring interdependent challenges in sustainability sciences. In this article, we propose that the term lock-in may contribute to a common understanding of undesirable resilience across scientific fields.
As the population ages, the proportion of older people requiring functional support will increase significantly, as will the ‘dependency ratio’ (the number of dependent people divided by the working-age population). These demographic changes will place significant strain on society and systems of long-term care (LTC). Growing expectations of standards of care will, in the future, amplify tensions between quality and affordability. Although there is significant international variation, the LTC system in many countries has become increasingly sophisticated, with services provided in both the home and residential LTC provision. The roles of informal carers and family are also being acknowledged as part of a complex system of care .
Our current global food system – from food production to consumption, including manufacture, packaging, transport, retail and associated businesses – is responsible for extensive negative social and environmental impacts which threaten the long-term well-being of society. This has led to increasing calls from science–policy organizations for major reform and transformation of the global food system. However, our knowledge regarding food system transformations is fragmented and this is hindering the development of co-ordinated solutions. Here, we collate recent research across several academic disciplines and sectors in order to better understand the mechanisms that ‘lock-in’ food systems in unsustainable states.
Few thinkers in the history of Western political thought are as widely cited as Alexis de Tocqueville. Among the legions of U.S. pundits and policy makers who have invoked the Frenchman's authority, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton all bolstered their speeches with choice quotes from Tocqueville's Democracy in America. Tocqueville is embraced across the political spectrum in the United States and Europe for his advocacy of civic engagement and civil society, his praise of religion's salutary role in public life, his warnings about the growth of the centralized state, and his sometimes biting observations about the leveling tendencies of democratic culture. His thoughts on democracy in America seem to resonate just as strongly today as when they appeared in the first half of the nineteenth century.
Even so, Tocqueville's ubiquity may actually detract from the subtlety of his message. It is difficult enough to characterize Tocqueville's domestic political theory – as a nostalgic conservatism, skeptical liberalism, communitarianism, or radical participatory democracy – but the confusion is only amplified when one looks beyond the relatively settled frontiers of American or Western-European democracy. His insights into the challenges of a globalizing age are among the most neglected and misunderstood parts of his political theory. Despite a recent surge of interest in Tocqueville's writings on empire, foreign policy, and European affairs, his thoughts on international relations are overshadowed by his famous book on America.
Alexis de Tocqueville is widely cited as an authority on civil society, religion and American political culture, yet his thoughts on democratization outside the West and the challenges of a globalizing age are less known and often misunderstood. This collection of essays by a distinguished group of international scholars explores Tocqueville's vision of democracy in Asia and the Middle East; the relationship between globalization and democracy; colonialism, Islam and Hinduism; and the ethics of international relations. Rather than simply documenting Tocqueville's own thoughts, the volume applies the Frenchman's insights to enduring dilemmas of democratization and cross-cultural exchanges in the twenty-first century. This is one of the few books to shift the focus of Tocqueville studies away from America and Western Europe, expanding the frontiers of democracy and highlighting the international dimensions of Tocqueville's political thought.