Can We Create Good Institutions?

September 12, 2019 0 By Kody Olson

(pleasant music) – I’m Margaret Chowning. I am a historian and I’m also the chair of the Moses Lectureship Committee. In 1937, University of California President Robert Gordon Sproul and the UC Board of Regions established the Bernard Moses Memorial Lectureship in the Social Sciences. The lectureship honors the
memory of the late Bernard Moses, a professor of history
and political science at the University of California from 1875 to 1911 and
an Emeritus professor from 1911 until his death in 1930. Professor Moses earned
a worldwide reputation for his contributions to understanding the problems of the
Latin American Republics and as a pioneer scholar. Professor Moses served as a
member of the United States Philippine Commission from 1900 to 1904. Past lecturers have
included Herma Hill Kay, Nicholas Riasanovsky, George Lakoff, Kenneth Stampp, Carolyn
Merchant, Jean Lave, Emmanuel Saez, Yuri Slezkine,
Aihwa Ong, and Mary Ann Mason. And now I’d like to say a few words about our speaker today, Ann Swidler. Professor Swidler is a
distinguished sociologist whose work is highly
influential in how scholars think about culture, religion
and social institutions. She’s often cited for
her now classic article, Culture In Action, published in 1986, in which she presents
the idea that culture shapes a toolkit of
styles, skills and habits which in turn shape individual’s
strategies of action. Swidler’s interest in
culture and institutions led to the study of how
societies in sub-Saharan Africa responded to the AIDS pandemic. Her recent work analyzes
global and local responses to this epidemic in Africa looking at how the massive international AIDS effort interacts with existing African cultural and institutional patterns. Her newest book, with Susan Cotts Watkins, is A Fraught Embrace:
The Romance and Reality of AIDS Altruism in Africa, forthcoming from Princeton
University Press. Professor Swidler earned
her masters and doctorate in sociology at UC Berkeley
and her undergraduate degree cum laude from Harvard University. A professor in the Department
of Sociology since 1987, she also taught on the sociology faculty at Harvard and at Stanford. Additionally, she has
been a Guggenheim fellow, French-American Foundation Professor of American Civilization, fellow of the Successful Societies Program of the Canadian Institute
for Advanced Research, visiting scholar at The
Russell Sage Foundation and fellow of the American
Academy of Arts and Sciences. Ann Swidler’s lecture first inquires as to what makes institutions good before questioning how such institutions might be achieved given
our current political, social, and economic
conditions, yikes (chuckles). Drawing on several studies of politics across national contexts,
including her studies of chieftaincy in sub-Saharan Africa, Swidler’s lecture will highlight critical institutional features that most analysts of political institutions neglect. Long temporal horizons, shared cultural and ritual forms, systems
of status aggregation, narrative power and elite consolidation. Please join me in welcoming
Professor Ann Swidler. (audience applauds) – Thank you very much. This is a tremendous honor
and I’m delighted to be here. Giving this lecture got a lot harder, but the ideas it grapples with are even more important
after November 8th. Perhaps the relevant caution
is that in our reaction to the election, further weakening of American institutions is the wrong answer. This was a traumatic
election in which our own political institutions seemed
continuously under assault. Aware of the longer-term fraying of many of the institutional practices
we may have taken for granted as a solid framework for our lives it is even more necessary to think about whether we can create good institutions. I want to begin by discussing the words of my title, one by one. I’ll start with we. I am thinking of we in two potentially very different senses. One is the we I have been
studying in sub-Saharan Africa. We, not necessarily all of you, of the developed West, as
we look around the world and attempt, usually unsuccessfully to build or reconstruct state
or community institutions in places as diverse as formerly war-torn Liberia and Sierra Leone, or more urgently Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya and other failed or near-failing states or most notoriously as
we failed spectacularly to help build or rebuild a state in Iraq after the 2003 invasion that
overthrew Saddam Hussein. Colin Powell is said to
have warned George W. Bush. Pottery Barn rules, you
break it, it’s yours. But that catastrophe revealed
more than Bush’s fecklessness. We have lots of ideas,
some only fantasies, about how to dismantle power, suspicion of government, a
distrust of power and of elites, run deep in American political culture. But just think how bare
our cupboard of ideas was when we tried to rebuild after dismantling the Iraqi government. We are inept in nation building even when we attempt to create more egalitarian, democratic, participatory
or empowering institutions. It is easy to condemn
the Bush administration for giving no thought
to post-invasion Iraqi law and order, for purging
Sunnis from the military and the civil service and so on. But what I find even more frightening about the failed
post-invasion reconstruction is that the experts we sent
to do the nation building were a small group with expertise in guess what, writing constitutions. That is where our expertise
and institution building more or less begins and ends. An idea that fits with our
own political narrative but has little applicability elsewhere. I also mean we in another and
perhaps more urgent sense. We ourselves as we now
try to protect, sustain, adapt or rebuild the institutions
upon which we depend. Here we may think of
institutions as precious and apparently fragile
as the university itself, local community institutions, or institutions like marriage and family, or the regulatory institutions
that structure our economy. We lack both theory and research about how to preserve the institutional legacies that hold our social life together while adapting to changing circumstances for reworking institutions so that they more fully embody our ideals. Now the word institutions. The term institutions long the provenance of anthropologists and sociologists has more recently become the hot topic in political science
and economics as well. The reasons for this
ascendance are relatively straightforward and come
from several directions. As economists and political
scientists explore the limits of rational choice
theories of human behavior they faced Hobbes’s
question, if people pursue their self-interests
what creates and enforces the rules that govern that competition? These are the quote “non-contractual
elements of contract “essential to any contract
the rules that determine “a contract’s validity and the authority “that enforces its
provisions can’t be created “by the contracting parties themselves.” So scholars ask where do the rules and the authority to
enforce the rules come from? The current preoccupation
with institutions also comes from more pressing concerns. After the breakup of the Soviet Union it seemed evident that challenging power needed to be complemented by concern with governance and I
remembered this moment when the Berkeley edited
journal Representations changed its editorial
statement to acknowledge that criticizing power
was not the only task that intellectuals needed
to pay attention to. So with the dangers of
chaos, ethnic fragmentation, as in the Balkans in civil war new institutions also seem vital to meet the challenges of the global social order in which we have vast
biological, social and economic interdependencies without
an organizational capacity to manage that interdependence, and that is certainly the
challenge that the next generation should we have a next
generation will face. So what are institutions? The minimal definition of an institution is a set of rules and the
ability to enforce them. Or slightly expanded, a
pattern of expected action of individuals or groups
enforced by social sanctions both positive and negative. An institution may be as
informal as the custom of shaking hands in a social situation, where the refusal to respond
to an outstretched hand might cause embarrassment and
some need for an explanation. Or institutions may be
formal sets of complex rules that organize entire
domains of social life like the corporation, the
university, the family, the state. It is also evident that
however external and objective institutions may feel at any given moment government, the university,
marriage and the market are also subject to constant renegotiation of their defining features, their rules, and their actual rewards and sanctions. So the paradox of institutions and I think this is something none of us have ever fully wrapped
our heads around is that on the one hand institutions stand as obdurate, enduring, that’s
part of what the word institutionalized implies,
enduring structures that are in some sense out there and we orient ourselves to them, and yet we are also
constantly modifying them. And so one of the questions
is what are the limits? In what ways do institutions sometimes appear unmodifiable and at other times appear utterly fragile and easy to, relatively easy to change. So to these features a set of relatively stable rules and the associated
rewards and sanctions that enforce these rules I would add a third crucial feature
and for those of you who know I’m thinking very
strongly here of Philip Selznick and his, the sociological
tradition from which he came. The implicit or explicit
purposes these forms serve purposes are integral to institutions so that we really cannot understand how they operate
concretely without thinking about the purposes that justify them. For example, if the purpose of a handshake is to greet someone while
suggesting friendly intentions one can decline a handshake with a smile and an apology for having one’s hands full substituting the intention
for the actual action. As we have redefined formal
institutions like marriage a sense of their larger purposes has also been essential to the debate, so we modified the formal structures of our institutions in light of what we understand their purposes to be. Purposes play a more central role than many scholars recognize
in how institutions work. So the university is an institution a set of recognized
structures, rules and purposes that would allow us
for example to know how to start a new university
that is it’s something like a recipe or a model
that’s out there even when it’s not being used and should we decide to initiate a
new university probably a foolish venture at this
moment in history but anyway we would assemble professors, students, labs, classrooms and so forth. But even with all these
ingredients assembled we would deny the term university to what is only a profit
making organization without an educational mission, although this is certainly the boundary that Trump University
for example has tested. We say that isn’t a real university no matter what its name is and that’s, I just want you to
recognize that your ability to say that isn’t a real X is precisely a measure of the reality of the
existence of an institution. If that gap can’t exist then
you don’t have an institution. There is a tension between
an institutionalized form and it’s actual instantiation at any given moment or in any given form. My co-authors and I
describe this in our book, The Good Society, using
the example of baseball. And I quote us, “Baseball
with its purposes, “codes and standards, is a
collective moral enterprise. “An institution in the full sense “and many Americans care deeply about it. “As an institution baseball
is more than the actual “players and organizations
who play the game “during any given season. “This was beautifully expressed in 1989 “when the former President of Yale, “late Baseball Commissioner
A. Bartlett Giamatti “announced his decision to
ban Pete Rose from Baseball “for having gambled on the sport, “and Giamatti wrote, ‘I
believe that baseball ‘is an important, enduring
American institution. ‘It must assert and aspire
to the highest of principals ‘of integrity, of
professionalism, of performance, ‘of fair play within its rules. ‘It will come as no surprise
that like any institution ‘composed of human beings this institution ‘will not always fulfill
its highest aspirations. ‘I know of no earthly
institution that does. ‘But this one because it is so much a part ‘of our history as a
people and because it has ‘such a purchase on our national soul ‘has an obligation to the
people for whom it is played, ‘to its fans and its well-wishers, ‘to strive for excellence in all things ‘and to promote the highest ideals.’ “We make the same distinction when we say “that a decision by our
university was unworthy of it “or betrayed its mission,
or when we make a similar “judgment about whether
members of a real family “would treat each other in certain ways, “or whether a real friend
would betray a confidence. “Thus institutional forms
are defined by purposes “that transcend their
concrete limitations.” Okay why do purposes matter? Institutionally defined purposes matter not only when they sound
moral and high-minded. Such purposes allow those
working in actual organizations to coordinate their activities
as when a corporation sees its purposes profit,
or when a university defines itself as devoted
to scholarship or learning. To use an example with which
many of us are familiar while we may be cynical about whether teaching and scholarly
action, excellence sorry, actually guide every decision
we make in the university. Without a sense of such
purposes how could we decide what undergraduates to admit, what graduate students
should receive fellowships, which faculty to hire or promote, and the hundreds of other
decisions we make daily about grading, writing
letters of recommendation, designing courses and
hundreds of other tasks if we did not have the
discourse available to us? Perhaps a discourse with
multiple visions and contention about the fundamental
purposes of the university. Those purposes link institutional
models and their ideals to the nitty-gritty struggles
of daily organizational life. Now the word good. Then what are good institutions? I have a very simple
definition of good institutions although in practice it’s quite difficult to measure and evaluate institutions along a single dimension. Good institutions for
my purposes are those that create and maintain
collective goods, ah ha. Goods, the good maintain goods, all right. What I mean by collective
goods, and this overlaps with what economists mean by public goods, are peace and security,
infrastructure such as roads and clean water,
and services such as public health, education,
economic opportunity, justice and the rule of law and at national and global
levels effective responses to such matters as climate
change, global health and peace. Other conceptions of what
makes good institutions like (mumbles) definition
of justice is the capacities that nurture human freedom,
or ideas of democracy and equality are important
ideals but building them into the definition of good
institutions blinkers us I think since most institutions
throughout most of human history did not meet our particularly
modern conceptions of good. Finally, the word create. Usually we don’t imagine
creating institutions but rather inheriting them
from the distant past. Indeed while there are moments of radical institutional innovation. The Constitutional Congress
of the United States, the formation of the League of Nations, or the United Nations, or the
International Criminal Court. We usually inherit institutions and modify them only gradually. Indeed the conundrum we
face at the current moment is that institutions
seem so easy to destroy but very hard to rebuild. Institutions depend on the
past in two fundamental ways, one is that over time institutional
endowments accumulate. This can be true in the
literal sense as when a university accumulates a
large financial endowment, but also in a larger cultural sense when the loyalties and
commitments of an organization’s members or its prestige or reputation what we would now cynically call its brand have accumulated in many small increments over a long period of time. The ability of a government
to exercise authority, of a tax system to collect taxes, or for example the Supreme
Court to enforce its directives may depend precisely on such
long accumulated endowments. This image of institutional endowments and I will point out the danger
of institutional depletion as legacies of the distant
past is odd however since we also know that
institutions are continuously being adapted even while sometimes
claiming ancient lineage. So for example the institutions
of marriage and family have been altered frequently
throughout American history. It isn’t just marriage
equality that is gay marriage. Changes in laws about women’s ability to inherit property, the
shifting authority of husbands over wives and children,
and most important perhaps the shift in the ease and
financial consequences of a divorce have changed not only the practical realities
of marriage but also the moral understandings of its purposes. From a primarily economic partnership meant to support the rearing of children, to a relationship meant to provide love and companionship
to its participants. Thus, institutions are
inherited from the past but there is a slight of
hand infusing older forms with new meanings and purposes, so why does the past matter so much for institutions to function effectively, and yet in another sense
the past matters so little? This is the heart of the difficulty of imagining and creating
good institutions. Here I want to start
talking about what we know from research literature
that I have pulled together from several different places. First, I want to talk about a recent paper by three economists among
them Berkeley’s Ted Miguel which involved a three and a half year Norwegian funded project
in war-torn Sierra Leone that started to, sought to encourage more democratic, egalitarian, participatory and especially gender-inclusive
decision making. The NGO that was running the big project selected 236 villages,
this is just a huge sample if you think about what they, I mean the ambition of this is amazing. And with the guidance of the researcher they randomized those villages so that 118 villages received this intensive training and encouragement to develop participatory decision making
and the other 118 villages were left to make decisions
as they always had. Local project facilitators
stayed in the villages working with the new more representative decision making groups that had formed. They monitored the groups to make sure women were really participating. They gave them small
grants to that they could work together to make collective decisions to kind of practice decision
making where it mattered. and they actually did,
the groups successfully made decisions together using
more participatory methods. They built a small project once they had succeeded in doing that they received a larger grant and again with lots of training and monitoring, and participation by facilitators
who were local people who lived in the villages and who visited every village for one
full day a week minimum, so this went on for three years. All the while being
coached, trained, encouraged and so on and so forth. At the end of the
project the research team assessed decision making
in all the villages. First they ran a public goods game and this is when each participant in an experimental setting is given
a small amount of money. This was the equivalent
of about two dollars which would be enormously valuable in any very poor African country. And participants had a choice about whether to put some or all of the money in a common pot where it would be spent for some village project or
whether to keep the money. And they could choose how
much to put to each use. Second the researchers,
and this is the very clever part of this I have to say, as they were packing up
at the end of the study offered each village a gift to thank them for all the participation and so forth. Either a big box with a lot
of batteries, small batteries, or a big box with little bags of salt that they had measured to
be exactly equivalent in money value to the batteries,
so there was no difference in which was more valuable
and they left both boxes in the village telling
villagers that they would return at the end of the day and whichever one the villagers didn’t want
they would take back. They also without making
explicit that this was part of their study,
left behind a big tarp like a big blue tarp that they had used and they just said we
don’t need this anymore we’re leaving it and
then finally they gave every village a voucher,
another gift to thank them for their participation and help the voucher for the local hardware store that could be spent however they wanted. And they had their own people
who were still packing up all the stuff they had
been doing in the villages observe how decisions were made and then their research team came
back some months later and since they knew
every physical structure in every village they could
judge what had happened to that tarp, was it now forming a crucial bit of protection, waterproofing
in the chief’s thatched hut which would be a very
reasonable and desirable use for it from the chief’s point of view, or did it have some other use? Okay the results of this very, first of all just massively
ambitious project, way beyond anything we normally
do in democracy building and just way beyond what you
could afford to do actually, incredibly intense, expensive project. What were the results? The first answer is that
there was no difference between the experimental
and control villages. So three and a half years of
effort made no difference. Fostering new participatory institutions had apparently had no effect. But perhaps more interesting
is who did make decisions and what decisions were made in both the experimental and control villages? In both sorts of villages most villagers of the public goods game gave all their money to the common pot. So Sierra Leone may have been war-torn but it was not a place in which people did not feel obligated and my hunch there’s some other research that would suggest pressure from the chief is what led people to
contribute to the common pot not selflessness, but
nonetheless the effect was that people gave very substantial
amounts to the common pot. When it came to choosing between the batteries and the bags of salt the chief chose, there
was no participation, no gender, no nothing,
the chiefs just chose. The tarp left behind
however did not end up keeping the rain out of the chief’s hut. Rather when researchers
returned to the village months later they found that in both experimental and control villages the tarps had been shared by village women used to bleach their grain in the sun. Similarly the items purchased with the hardware store vouchers had been used for village projects, so
perhaps the new institutions didn’t take root because chiefs, the institution of chieftaincy was already producing collective goods. And we have to ask why the NGO assumed that participatory, gender, egalitarian, decision making would
be a vast improvement over what these villages already had. Now I want to talk about a second study by sociologist Stephen Cornell and an economist Joseph Kalt. In a similarly ambitious project they compared economic development across more than 60
Native American tribes. And I have to say this was another just remarkably ambitious project. They were at Harvard and they got students from the Harvard Business School to serve as consultants to reservation communities that requested their help and they went for minimum of six months,
recorded a vast battery of economic data and offered whatever consulting services they could offer about managing the
tribe’s economic welfare. So this was a sort of
exchange of research data for consulting help and of course it was great experience for these
essentially internships offered to these Harvard
Business School students. All right, they found first and this is a very, very strong finding that tribes economic fortunes this was
the era before casinos, so I actually don’t know
how you would measure this effectively now, but
tribes economic fortunes differed radically depending on how well they were governed not on
their natural resources, local labor market conditions, or any other advantages or disadvantages of their objective economic situation. Tribes that were well-governed
were economically successful. Those that were poorly
governed failed economically even when they had enormously rich natural resources for example. What then accounted for
better or worse governance? In a stunning paper
titled, Where’s the Glue? Cornell and Kalt show
that well-governed tribes had governance structures
that corresponded roughly to the governance structures
Europeans recorded at first contact with the group. Institutions that
corresponded to long-standing cultural patterns were most effective at creating collective goods. A tribe governed at first contact by a self-perpetuating group of six shamans that was currently
governed by a self-selected group of Shamans who simply chose their own successors was well-governed. A tribe that at first contact was governed by an elected tribal
council that was still run by an elected tribal
council was well-governed. But when a tribe that at first contact was run by a single chief
who had centralized authority was no governed by an elected
council it was poorly governed with tribal elections frequently settled when one faction ran another
out of office with guns. So for reasons we don’t fully understand, institutions with
long-embedded cultural history seem to produce better
governance than what we might think of as the best institutions however well they might
function in theory. I could say much more about
Cornell and Kalt’s work. Why a shaman thought it
would be beneath his dignity to appoint a relative
to an important post, or how a Potawatomi group
managed its forest resources more effectively than did the giant lumber company warehouser. But the bottom line is
the somewhat mysterious but very important finding even when there had been significant
interruptions in groups historical patterns of governance, so they are not saying that six shamans governed this group and governed it continuously from time immemorial. In fact all these groups had enormous interruptions in governance partly because the US Government Bureau of Indian Affairs imposed one common model
on all American tribes for a period of about 40 years and then it relented and let tribes choose a variety of different
organizational patterns. But also there had been
almost unimaginable disruptions in all these
groups forms of social life. So the federal policy
forced them to redefine themselves as tribes
whatever their historic forms of social organization were, competing bands were forced to merge in order to negotiate effectively with the federal government, and of course populations were decimated by disease and slaughter,
displaced from their lands and often subjected to cultural genocide. Nonetheless, institutions function better when they corresponded
to long-established, even if interrupted, cultural models. But must we draw the conclusion that good institutions are
necessarily an ancient legacy worked out over many generations and that the heritage that makes
for good institutions is so complex that it is almost impossible to rebuild since we now understand how fragile even our institutions are? This would be a truly
frightening prospect. So creating good institutions. I now want to turn this argument around by considering some of
the surprising features of good institutions that I’ve observed during my work in sub-Saharan Africa and that other scholars have also examined to see whether they have
lessons relevant for today. First, I want to talk about
reinventing African chieftaincy. Across sub-Saharan Africa
chiefs and chieftaincy often delegitimated and in places outlawed due to chiefs collaboration
with colonial authorities has come roaring back with
Afrobarometer survey data from across Africa showing
that traditional leaders are the most trusted,
more than legislators or government officials of all types. Recent research from
Zambia a wonderful book by Kate Baldwin, political scientist, has shown that chiefs
help their communities produce collective goods of all sorts. Wells for clean water, roads, schools and attracting development
projects to their villages. Why are they able to do this and how? One surprising answer has
to do with time horizons. Chiefs do a fairly good
job because they have very long time horizons, their
positions are hereditary, not elected, and here I’ll
just say as a parenthesis that’s true although at the
time of a chiefly succession when an old chief dies the royal family will have some negotiation and somebody who’s manifestly incompetent
might be pushed aside, someone who is more respected, so the royal family
itself has an investment in the continuity of its leadership and tries to put forward, I think, generally more competent people. Chiefs are also occasionally deposed if they are truly corrupt or incompetent, but that is usually done
by the royal family itself. That is the chiefly lineage group, yeah that would be called
locally the royal family. All right, in their positions for life chiefs see their own
well-being as identified with that of their
communities and they have a very long time horizon. Contrast this with the
ever shorter time horizons of our current institutions. I refer not only to term
limiting our legislators but also to the implications
of share-holder value for corporate governance
so that corporate boards are legally mandated
to put the performance of a corporation’s stock inevitably a short-term indicator
above any consideration of the long-term endowments
of the corporation, such as loyalty and accumulated
skills of its workforce, investment in long-term
research and development, or long-term commitment
to a local community. The Wells Fargo scandal isn’t just about terrible management at one gigantic bank. But about the very short
time horizon of executives whose astronomical bonuses are tied to short-term performance,
sometimes only to performance for one quarter, that’s three months in a corporation stock price. This is mafia territory where
mergers and acquisitions can mean taking over a
business with a large endowment of skills, patents, land,
factories, or brand name selling off the most valuable bits, driving up short-term profitability by drastically cuttings costs usually by laying-off workers at the cost of longer-term performance and selling out before the market catches on leaving the hollowed out wreckage. This isn’t just a matter
of corporate crooks who should be prosecuted,
although my brother used to say, only half joking, “That such crimes made him reconsider “his opposition to the death penalty.” Such changes are a
consequence of the broader institutional order in
this case the redefinition of the legal and regulatory environment within which corporations
worked after the 1980s. As when we redefine the ease of divorce or the terms of our legislators, we alter an institution
and its terms including its taken for granted
extension forward in time. Universities are unusual in this respect in that many of their
members especially alumni and many tenured faculty have lifelong not short-term investments
in the institution, its reputation and its future. But the politicians who
control the university’s fate inevitably have the same short-term pressures and incentives to
please current constituents, admit more students, don’t raise tuition, don’t raise taxes, that
make long-term investments so difficult throughout our society. And of course the contrast between political institutions defined
by short-term incentives and I should say by national boundaries and the very long time horizon required to combat climate change
are tragically evident. Okay, now I want to
turn to another element of good institutions besides time horizons and talk about status
hierarchies and ritual forms. I already described how institutions with deep cultural roots function better and are more likely to
be good in my terms. The question is why and whether these insights can be carried forward to build or reinforce our
own institutional capacities? Sociologists often discuss
an institution’s legitimacy which I recall something
like the cultural belief that the institution is the
right kind of institution and that it’s basically good. But it’s hard to make a convincing case, at least in my view, that people’s belief in the goodness or rightness
of their institutions is enough to overcome the
inertia, indifference, and selfishness, what political scientists and others call, the free rider problem, which can lead even say
socially committed people to burn out when others don’t pitch in. Legitimacy is particularly
difficult to demonstrate as an important feature
of institutional success given that most people are quite cynical even about institutions upon which they depend and with which they cooperate. That is I think a sweetness and light institutions survive and are healthy because everyone loves
them and believes in them I just don’t think we
have evidence that’s true. So if legitimacy isn’t the main reason why shared culture matters, why and how does culture matter for institutions? And here I want to talk
about another fascinating study of villagers in rural China that suggests one possible reason. Lily Tsai who originally
was a graduate student here in political science,
although I didn’t know her, studied more than 300 villages in both poor and wealthy regions of China. As we found for the Native American tribes wealth did not predict whether villages provided such collective goods
as roads, repaired paths, elementary school classrooms,
and running water. Whether village magistrates
were top-down appointees or formerly democratically
elected didn’t matter either. What predicted public goods provision was instead whether or not the village had a traditional cultural association, a village temple committee, or
a village wide lineage group that both, and these are her terms, encompassed and embedded
village officials. That is the village officials had to be part of such a group and that group had to encompass most of the village. So Tsai’s argument is
that these traditional cultural associations provided a place where officials could receive status, admiration, gratitude, honor, for accomplishments that
benefited the village and this status in turn
provided those leaders resources with which to win cooperation
from other members of the village community
for collective projects. In a sense status, or what
Tsai calls, moral standing, so you have to accomplish things that people believe are good
provides, a reason why chiefs, mayors, or university
deans and department chairs may define their on well-being
by how their community regards them and also why they may be able to win cooperation from others. Tsai writes quote, “Moral standing can be “a powerful incentive. “It not only makes people
feel good about themselves “but also it can translate into “economic and social advancement. “Local officials with
higher moral standing “may also find it easier to illicit “citizen compliance with state policies. “Moral standing can be
an invaluable resource “for accomplishing a variety of “political, social and
economic objectives.” Tsai uses a made up American analogy to try to explain her
argument about rural China. She says, “Imagine the
mayor of a small town “in the United States
with only one church. “Even if not everyone
goes to church regularly “everyone sees the church as “representative of the town community. “In this kind of small town
if the mayor does something “exemplary that benefits the town “the minister might very
well mention his good work “in front of the congregation
during Sunday sermon. “This in turn can give the mayor a measure “of moral and social
standing in addition to “whatever he might already possess “as a public official or a
member of the social elite. “Increased moral standing
may also make his “mayoral tasks easier to carry out. “When he tries to implement
a difficult state policy “a new requirement for
example that students “of a different ethnic group be bused “into the town school,
additional standing can help “him persuade his constituents.” And she literally has in mind minister goes up to some
leader in the town says, “Look I hope I have you with me on this.” And if that mayor has a lot of status people defer and say, “Oh
yeah, yeah, I’ll be with you. “You can count on me.” That’s what she’s talking about. Moral standing can make citizens more likely to trust the mayor and defer to his judgment and can win over particularly stubborn
opponents of the policy. We of course are increasingly skeptical of status inequalities. At least since the 1960s,
and not only in the US, survey after survey has
shown growing public distrust of elites of all sorts,
business executives, government officials,
physicians, and of course the scientists whose authority we need to affirm the reality of
human caused climate change. Amidst rising inequality
and wealth and income we have flattened the prestige hierarchy, so that fewer people
command public deferences and public trust it
comes as little surprise that fewer are drawn to public service. Noblesse oblige is a thing of the past, no noblesse and no oblige. The new status elite are perhaps those tech billionaires who
establish foundations, but this is a remarkably self-indulgent, undemocratic, and in many ways strikingly apolitical form of social commitment. And of course the
billionaires who intervene directly in politics like the
Koch brothers on the right, and Buffett and Soros on the left, are hardly greeted with
deference and gratitude. But we should not forget that status, moral standing, is a powerful reward. Global institutions and
the humbler institutions within which we live and work would do well to remember its value as a stored reservoir
of social commitments. And in my own work in Africa
you can see very clearly that chiefs have status and they receive a lot of deference when I had to go meet one of their various levels of chiefs, but anyways I had to go
meet one of the big ones. There was massive amount of attention to everyone had to bathe carefully, and wear pressed clothes, and had to bring a small gift, and there’s the how,
what would we discuss. Every aspect of this was,
there was as much concern as Ellen Gobler has shown
in getting every element of this lecture together
for my visit to the chief. And then it turns out that what chiefs do what do they actually do, since they have no physical authority? They don’t have police. They don’t have guns. They don’t have troops. They don’t have enforcers. They really just totally
rely on their moral authority to make many, many, very,
very important decisions. Well turns out that when
someone is known to be an upstanding member of the community they actually there’s a phrase in Chichewa that says, worth not wealth. That person is then the
chief treats that person in an important way if a member
of that person’s family dies the chief comes in person to give a speech at the funeral rather
than deputing one of his many councilors and so on and so forth. If that person there may be
benefits to be handed out and this person who’s known to be a good contributor to the community might get extra one of these benefits. But in general you can think of these high status people like
chiefs as operating as a kind of reservoir
of social commitment, so that the social
commitments build up their reservoir of influence and then they use that influence to reward
people who in turn build up their reservoir of influence. It’s a very recognizable pattern and it flows through status. Okay, then another aspect of
this and it’s tied to status has to do with the role of rituals, and I think these traditional,
cultural practices matter partly because they
create collectively recognized ritual occasions and I
think we tend to be cynical about rituals we’re cosmopolitan elites. Although I hope you will still recognize the world I’m talking about where there are shared rituals, think here of an annual
PTA meeting or a church, or in my case the ritual life with my own academic department, and I’ll say my synagogue. It really matters whether
we have an occasion to celebrate the
achievements of our members, to thank those, for example,
who served as department chair, or others who’ve served
the university or who have lived up to ideals of scholarship,
teaching or mentorship. Indeed that is part of what remembering Bernard Moses is about. Such rituals serve many functions. They build solidarity. They allow people to
deliver the status honor, to publicly affirm the moral standing of those who contribute to the community. But also very importantly
when people thank those who have contributed
to the collective they enhance the sense of the
value of the group itself. And I was very aware of this, this year. I was thinking about such things at our big department graduation
ceremony each spring as we celebrate the graduates, we also celebrate our department and the fundamental value of
our teaching and research. We publicly thank and praise each other, and we thus emphasize, we
create and reiterate a narrative in which we are all
doing our share and more to carry out our responsibility
for the institution. We thus minimize the
awareness of free riders, who might undermine the commitment of everyone else to contribute. That is we create the
illusion that we are getting more contributions for more broader range of our members than we
perhaps really are getting, and we therefore minimize the visibility of the free riders and
maximize the visibility and the status of those who do contribute and the extraordinary value of the thing they contribute to. So my department is very big on ritual, I’m happy to say, I
think it has to do a lot with having a lot of
female chairs, been great. And we have had many,
many occasions where, for example, if a
department member receives almost any honor we have
a department reception to honor the person and we talk about how great that person is and we all feel, wow I’m so lucky to be in a department with such a terrific person and that that person’s prestige one
of our department members was knighted by the Norwegian government and so we felt wow we have a knight in our department, that’s fantastic. And so we absorbed his
honor into ourselves and we elevated our sense
of the larger purposes, the larger shared value
of what we were doing. And so it reinforces the idea that there’s a privilege to be part
of such a wonderful group. Finally, collective ritual
occasions do something else that we may normally be less aware of. And here I’m gonna talk about a horrible, a really horrible, image but I want you to think about it and then
generalize it to better things. If you think about Jim Jones and his cult and the drinking the Kool-Aid, that was rehearsed over and over again as a test of who was really
committed and who wasn’t. That is there wasn’t
cyanide in the Kool-Aid until the last time, but
there was not just a way of tricking people into
committing suicide at the end, but it was a sign that you were committed. Would you stand up with
everyone else and say, “Yes, I’ll drink the Kool-Aid”? And those are ways that
leaders of all sorts, and this is particularly true for authoritarian societies
and for cults of all sorts, they test who’s really with them through ritual performances. So you want to get yourself
killed in North Korea? Well actually it’s quite easy to do, but one of the ways to
do it is not to look adequately enthusiastic and
attentive at some public ritual. Literally you purge those
who cooperate in the ritual, but the ritual allows you to
see who is really with you. It’s a sort of pre-test of that. And so in a much more benign setting, we can say that rituals rehearse and test the obligations that members of community have to one another. You may sometimes have
wondered as you shelled out money you can’t really
afford to attend a wedding or a Bat Mitzvah in a distant city for relatives you hardly remember or with whom you have
very little in common when you do see them, why you were going to the trouble of doing this? But your demonstration
that you are willing to put in that effort, spend that money, tightens those bonds and makes them real. So people often think
that rituals celebrate what already exist, but
rituals actually enact and bring into being things
that potentially exist. I’m thinking for example
of the many weddings and Bar and Bat Mitzvahs I’ve seen where a divorced couple has to decide how they are going to physically handle the complexities of the ritual. Well I turned it around
in my head and I think that the ritual exists
partly because it is the place where people publicly enact and therefore reaffirm
their bonds to each other. And they don’t just reflect the bonds that are already there, they
construct new publicly validated definitions of those bonds. So when I saw the parents,
the divorced parents, of one of my nephews
walk together with him, stand together with
him at his Bar Mitzvah, I knew they were saying,
“We will put you first “above our disagreements and
our distaste for each other. “And we will be there for
you when you need us.” I don’t even know that they always were, but that declaration,
that public declaration, shifts the ground. It enacts and in a sense the community then monitors those public commitments. So ritual occasions create the moments when people symbolize their loyalties. When they think of the Fourth of July for patriotic loyalties, but also again think of the distant family who show up for a cousin’s wedding,
or an uncle’s funeral. And then find that having
reaffirmed their commitment in this symbolic way and
this is autobiographical. I have done this. I both missed a very important funeral and it permanently damaged
by relationship to a cousin, and I have gone to things that I thought I had no real reason to go to, and found I was much more
committed to my family afterward. So they’ve now made that commitment real in a way it wasn’t
before the ritual moment. So rituals matter and institutions cannot really thrive without them. Returning to Lily Tsai’s
work on Chinese villages, we can see how village temple activity strengthen the capacity
of village institutions to produce collective goods. She writes, “Villagers
have clear obligations “to contribute to and participate in “village temple activities, “because these collective
activities represent “group tributes to the
village’s guardian deities. “Village residents are
expected to make donations “to help fund these activities. “The names of donors and
the amount they donated “are posted publicly on the temple wall. “Village temples are an important symbol “of the village community. “They provide strong
institutions enforcing “each member’s
responsibility to contribute “to the collective good
and numerous opportunities “for publicizing whether members “have fulfilled their responsibilities.” Rituals really matter, I’m back to me, and without shared rituals
the emotional charge they generate and the
concentrated social information they convey it is difficult to construct binding social ties. Enduring social institutions necessarily have a symbolic core one that conveys membership and meaning, not
just practical interests and enforceable obligations. Often that symbolic core and the rituals that reinforce it work at
an emotional and unconscious rather than purely rational level. This I think accounts
for some of the emotional reactions to the recent election. Where love of country has been expressed in symbolic rituals, like the arms linked around Lake Merritt in Oakland. Only because we hold America
and its traditions sacred do we feel so violated when
those values are threatened. So status and ritual go together
and reinforce each other and both reinforce the
ability of institutions to call forth commitments
from their members. Now I want to return and
this is my last point, big point, I have a couple
of other small points, to the practical issues
who gains and loses? Most of literature on
creating institutions really is based on a model
of complex negotiations, that is you form
institutions when you realize it’s in your interests
and you sort of agree to bind yourself over to a
set of institutional processes and those, and then if you
read Acemoglu and Robinson and such literature
they have more an image that it’s when you’re truly threatened with losing your control
then you make concessions that essentially broaden and deepen participation things like that. And then why those things
last they’re not so clear on. But I would say that the models of where those institutional commitments
come from are very thin. They say a lot of powerful
things about interests and very little about the other aspects that go along with interests. But if we turn to interests for a minute, I think it’s true that
institutions cannot survive if over the long haul
people see that the ideals or justifications the institutions embody bear no relationship to the ways they allocate rewards and
punishments or sanctions. Although paradoxically
and here I think we really have to take this into account, institutions survive
very well and can survive over a very long period of time even if most people who play by their rules never realize the benefits they promise. That I think is in fact routine. Many, many people try to become academics and most will never become the fancy professors we’re privileged to be. Think of the opportunity
the market promises for ability and hard
work, in a world in which most people will, most not everyone, but most people will
get some kind of a job and will have some way
of supporting theirself but most people will not achieve most of the rewards the
system seems to promise. People know that the
American Dream probably won’t work for them, but
they continue to be attached to the institutions that
support that fantasy. Or the continuing allure of marriage even for those who never marry, or who are in situations where marriage is not a practical possibility, even as actual marriages fail many people. So institutions do not have to actually reward everyone who plays by their rules. And I don’t think they do, I don’t think we have evidence that that’s what makes them work. But even though institutions can keep hold of imaginations even of many people whom they let down in the end, that is very different from it becoming evident that the very
standards at the core of the institution’s
narrative do not work. That even those who are
successful in the institutions own terms aren’t rewarded, and here I want to briefly mention a great
book, it’s an old book, by Harrison and Cynthia White, on institutional transformation in the French painting world and they essentially are trying to explain the
rise of the impressionists. What they show is that the academic system for regulating French painting which was a very well-established
institutional system with its own educational system and then its channels of mobility and so forth, depended on the notion that artists would achieve rewards and the reward was usually patronage
from the French state that would then commission
the successful people to paint something for a public building, or to create a public sculpture,
or something like that. Those winners in that
system would be chosen in these enormous juried shows, and as thousands of provincials started to long to become artists and therefore flooded into Paris trying to succeed spending years creating one painting on which their whole fate depended. Those thousands and thousands of paintings and if you’ve ever been to the Renwick you can kind of imagine
what this was like, these very, very tall ceilings, very high ceilings, and walls covered with thousands of paintings. Then you had these juries,
let’s imagine six or seven men in some kind of black
robes wandering around they couldn’t even see the paintings. They couldn’t even see them. There could be no pretense
that they were choosing the best, that they truly were judging which artist deserved
these enormous rewards. So it wasn’t just that
the number of rewards was far too small for
the number of aspirants, it was that the pretense
that the rewards made sense in terms of the
institution’s own narrative couldn’t be maintained. And then I don’t know how true this is but the Whites paint this picture where a new institutional
system grows up outside the old order they call it the dealer or critic system and that’s the one out of which the support
for the impressionists emerges but also a new narrative which is the starving artist in the garret who is discovered by the early purchasers who see the genius and the artist starves and dies but those who supported his
or her work are vindicated. Okay, so it may seem
surprising that narratives, stories linking more meanings to outcomes, could be essential to the patterned realities we call institutions, but I think they are incredibly important. When we try to export
participatory decision making institutions to Africa,
or we aspire to create new global institutions to
regulate carbon emissions, or to prevent war, or to rescue refugees, we may not think that we are constructing a persuasive narrative. A narrative for example
about how empowered women will be able to prevent
themselves from acquiring HIV. But that is precisely what
drives policy formation. Policy comes when the narrative is moving and persuasive
and seems to makes sense. So narratives are really
central to creating institutions even as we try to envision
rules that will guide expectations over the long run and somehow we home acquire enduring authority to regulate or constrain action. Indeed I think good research suggests that creating new
institutions usually means in fact not creating
institutions from scratch. It usually means adapting
pieces of already existing institutions and I think narratives play a critical role in this process. I think that’s why in the
Cornell and Kalt findings it matters what Native American groups governance structures
were a long time ago, even when there isn’t continuity in the actual concrete institution. And I want to use just
a couple of last pieces of research to suggest
that this might be true without having done research that can show that it actually is true. And one is a book on Africa
by an anthropologist, Sandra Barnes, the book is
called Patrons and Power. It’s a wonderful study of what happened in a suburb of Lagos, Nigeria when enormous numbers of people, millions, had moved into an unincorporated
area outside Lagos. So they had no political representation and no way to get services like running water, and
sanitation, and so forth. What did they do? And these were groups from
multiple different ethnic groups. They weren’t even all Yoruba, let alone from the same Yoruba tribe. They created chiefs. They invented chieftaincies. And then people who wanted to be chiefs, invented genealogies that legitimated their chieftaincy claims and so what’s fascinating is these weren’t actual chiefs who set up shop there. This was a collective attempt to create legitimate forms of political authority, and political access by
taking the familiar narrative that everyone could recognize about how you form yourself as a collectivity and what it means to be
represented politically and then inventing brand new chieftaincies which in fact got them represent, I mean that was then those
people had a lot of influence. They could go to politicians. There’s a very similar story from a totally different historical era which is from a book that’s much too complicated to summarize, but Rick Biernacki’s book
the Fabrication of Labor. And Biernacki argues that if
you try to look at how labor, that is the relationship between
factory owners and workers, got constituted differently
in Britain and Germany what you need to see is what the earlier institutions were that they
adapted at great remove in order to imagine what the factory was and what labor was. And Biernacki says that
they were essentially in Germany where they did not already have a market in labor and in commodities at the time of industrialization, they adapted the futile form these would have been the Junkers who could get corvee
labor from their peasants. That’s one day a month
you have to come and build the stone wall around my
land or something like that. And they saw when they paid for labor, they thought of it in that way they were buying the time of the laborer with a wad of money. When the British constructed factories they already had a market
in labor and commodities so what they thought they were doing is something like the putting-out system brought within four walls. They were buying the piece of cloth and paying for it in terms of how high quality the cloth was, how many threads per inch there were, and Germans and British factory owners continued to use radically
different systems for understanding how
they paid their workers. Based on the institutional
models, the imaginaries, they were drawing on in these
two very different contexts. So, now I conclude and
my conclusion is really that the question of how you create good institutions is so critical that we really need
serious research on this so that the next time
we have to think about such problems we don’t find that our theoretical and research cupboard is bare. That is the a-number-one,
this is not a problem I’m gonna solve, this is a problem I think is urgently important. But I have a couple of
final morals of the story. The first is don’t flee from effective institutions, seek them. Don’t let yourself be, I
don’t know what word to use, diluted, overwhelmed, sucked in, by the American romance in which this is very American
if we can only throw off institutions and just
be free to be ourselves. The day after the
election I was talking to, I bought shoes believe it or not. I mean I was so crazed, but anyway, I was talking to this young woman from Zappos and she said that, oh she was very chatty. She said, oh yes, I
live in Nevada and this you know terrible outcome
election blah, blah, blah. And then she said, I didn’t vote, in Nevada you can vote none
of the above, she said. And that’s how I voted because I wanted to be true to my conscience. I, well yeah, I’ll leave that hanging. And I also want to say
that one more thing, which is loss of an institutional legacy also constricts our imagination about what politics and social
life are or could be. That is it’s not only that
we base our institutions on narratives that seem persuasive, but that the narratives we constitute about who we are and about our own lives in turn depend on institutional models. So just as institutional
capacities often come from resuscitating older
institutional models to serve in new ways, as we saw with the suburb of Lagos or the
workers and bosses in Germany. The loss of institutions
threatens to leave us with the understanding that
only market institutions money, raw coercive power,
and market forces are real. (audience applauds) – [Woman] I have two
issues slash questions I’d like to raise, one
is coming back to your definition of good and good institutions, and good I mean we may know
what is good versus evil, but good can have many definitions. And an example is, one
example is the election. And there are you talked
about people gathering around Lake Merritt, well there are people you know this was a
very tiny, tiny majority not the popular vote but the electoral college vote was tiny. And there are people who
felt that voting for Trump was good and that that
government will be good. So I think we need to recognize good. I was watching television the other night and a potential secretary of
I guess the interior said, climate change, saying that climate change is caused by man is silly. We don’t agree, I assume
nobody in this room agrees, but that is one definition
of a good institution. So I think we need to, I
mean, that is one person perhaps a group’s definition of good. So good institutions can differ. May other question comment
is a lot of your work has been about NGOs and criticizing NGOs and you didn’t mention that here but NGOs, there are lots of NGOs, but that is an institution that, and I don’t know do you want to
say something about NGOs? (Ann laughs) – Yeah let me try to address
this thing about good. So I was, one reason I
define good institutions really by the set of outcomes which is that they produce I don’t
know what you’d call but let’s call them public
goods in the economist sense, rather than all the other
things I might think make institutions good
like being inclusive, and democratic, and participatory, or being just by my lights, or being representing my ethnic group, or representing God’s
will or this and that. I mean I agree with you that when it comes to people’s moral
understandings of what’s good, I don’t think actually we face chaos. It might feel like it I actually don’t think that’s
true, but it’s true that people can have profoundly
different starting points for thinking about such
issues and they can end up, I think looking at (mumbles) here but they can end up so profoundly divided in certain ways that the whole
set of premises they have about what their common life should be really create divisions they can’t bridge. So I’m not saying that
there’s only one definition of the good and that I
have it or something, I really was trying to use
a very sort of concrete and pragmatic definition
of good institutions, not as the ones that we
would necessarily find morally the most appealing, but the ones that are
able to accomplish certain kinds of things in their
particular historical context. And I think they often don’t look like the kind of institutions
I mean you would not like living in a chieftaincy I
can absolutely guarantee it. You would hate it, no you would hate it. And many, many people go
to Africa, for example, and just see these
things as totally corrupt which to some degree they are, that is you give a gift to the chief and if some goodies come into the village the chief will certainly
take, skim a share. But not nearly the share that the government officials will skim (laughs). And there are reasons for that, so. – [Man] Hi my name’s Ethan. I’m a sociologist at UC Davis. You mentioned this piece about status, hierarchies and rituals
and gave some examples and I’m trying to struggle with this how we’ve divided ourselves and like the identity politics that seem to be really driving a lot of things, and so. But the examples you gave
of where hierarchies work, or where status works, rituals
work, seemed very small. And so I’m asking you if you’ve thought have we just outgrown
our capacity to reach across demographics to
share in that type of work? And that that’s a place for change? Or is it that we are dividing ourselves into smaller identities
that is problematic? – Yeah, I was going to say oh shoot that’s a really good point and I hoped wouldn’t be too obvious. No, I think you’re right that the image of ritual that I find very persuasive is the kind of thing that happens in face-to-face situations or at least in televisable moments of situations and that it’s a little hard to figure out exactly how that applies to whole, very large, collectivities. But I think you’re still
pointing to something which is that, that if
what our current politics and the desire for let’s call it let’s use the Charles Taylor
or whatever term recognition. So enormous numbers of groups
with different identities and different needs and it’s not just racial and ethnic identity politics or sexual community identity politics. Really it’s part of, or religious
group identity politics, it’s part of I think the
whole way we’ve learned to speak about collective life is to make sure everyone feels recognized. And then the question is does that allow room for there to be a recognition of some kind of elite, and here I’ll just use the
brutal term elite status, that everyone would be willing to defer to because we see those people? And I’m really not thinking of me. But I’m thinking of people like people who would serve on some
governmental commission to try to deal with the crisis facing us if money for Medicare runs out. Or people who would be seen
as potential neutral arbiters and I think if our theory
is that everyone has his or her own reality,
that your reality is shaped by your social position so that standpoint theory is our only theory, I think we’re really in bad shape. I think those are not good bases on which to build collective institutional life. So in a way I agree with
you but I think that if you really want to think about how to rebuild institutions
confronting the fact that and even coming out of this election everyone is gonna conclude
that the problem is that the elites are too elitist. Well my problem is the
elites aren’t elite enough. What’s the matter with them? You know, enriching yourself privately is totally incompatible with really being a member of the elite. If you want to claim
national leadership status you have to be in some ways heroic, and maybe this gets a little to Joanna’s question about the NGOs. I think one of the
reasons that people have run headlong in, sometimes
in not very fruitful direction is because they’re
looking for some kind of heroic self-abnegation, self-sacrifice, so we’re much more
willing to believe that, now his name is gonna go
completely out of my head, but the partners in health guy. – [Man] Farmer. – Yes, thank you, James Farmer. – [Audience Members] Paul. – Paul, Paul Farmer, sorry. James Farmer is someone
else important, but not, yeah Paul Farmer has a kind of heroism I kind of genuine elite status. A kind of genuine willingness to sacrifice for the public good that allows sort of the collective imagination to focus on him and the vision he’s offering. And I think we don’t know
how to construct that again. I mean it’s even if you
think about Skopcol’s book, Protecting Soldiers and Mothers, one of the reasons women
during the Progressive Era were able to be so influential
in American politics is because Americans
don’t like politicians they think they’re corrupt
and self-interested, and women were seen as above politics because they didn’t have the vote. Because what they did
was seen as really being for the public good so they could mobilize some kind of prestigious
commissions and things, that’s exactly what they did do. You know to study the
problem of tainted milk, or the problem of infants dying, or the problem of rat feces in the meat, or whatever it was, and try to get reform. So I think realizing that we’ve gotten so good at being suspicious of elites, that I think it’s actually undermined our ability to think about
what we need going forward, so. Yes. – [Woman] Thank you I’m a little thrown by the great questions ahead of me. You said something that I understood to be seek effective institutions. Can you say a little more about that? – Well I think partly that was the whole talk was meant to be about that. But just I guess I have this fear that people are going to
turn away from government. Going to say, “Oh I hate bureaucracy. “I hate the administration.” For instance if you’re a member of the university community, which I can’t help but think about because it’s the community I’m most attached to and really there’s a kind of let’s get
rid of this chancellor. And then, oh we don’t like him either, let’s get rid of the next one, then oh let’s get, oh it
may be that some of them have been much better than others. But the idea that sort of slash and burn is really the way to go in terms of our institutional life, I
just don’t think it’s true. And so I’m not justifying any particular person who was either
incompetent, or self-dealing, or corrupt, or didn’t tell the truth. But I think the level of sort of savagery that we think is now appropriate toward anyone who attempts to take a position of leadership
if that’s our style then don’t we really expect
leaders to be demagogues who can just ride rough shot over that, because any reasonable person how could he or she stand up to it, so? That’s my, that’s where I was coming from. – [Woman] Thank you that
clarifies, thank you. – [Woman] Talk about
what the difference is between your idea of endowment and the idea of legitimacy that is used to evaluate the extent to which people respond to the purposes
that you talked about and the principles that are embedded in the purposes of the
different institutions. It seems to me that’s
what legitimacy is about is an evaluation that’s
continual and perpetual that people are constantly doing about every institution that
affects their lives. And that it’s a lot different than just an endowment of something. – Well, okay so for me the word endowment is meant to connote I guess all the long legacy of other people’s efforts that have built something
up to be what it is. And actually again I’ll
refer to the university here where it’s incredible
privilege to be here. The University of California Berkeley is certainly the greatest
public university in the world and maybe the greatest single university in the world. It’s not because of anything I did. It’s because of
generations and generations of people, taxpayers who
put their tax dollars into the institutions,
administrators who built it, indeed the endowment of the
corpus of scholarly work that comes from generations
and generations before us and you know this very well. And so I have a feeling
that that endowment gets built up over time,
sometimes it also involves an endowment of money and you’re right it involves an endowment of
purposes that’s for sure. And I don’t want to fight you, especially you to the death about rejecting the concept of legitimacy. But there my sense is, wow we would could dissipate this thing pretty
quickly, for example, if just let me do a really
worst case scenario. Berkeley desperately needs money. It decides a Berkeley degree because of the brand
is really worth a lot, and so it will just sell them. Something very similar by the way happened before the French Revolution
when the French state was desperate to raise
money and it sold offices. And actually the English Crown did it before the English Revolution also. They sold baronets. You know it’s not impossible
if you’re desperate enough and you just would sell
degrees or sell them for some minimal amount of symbolic effort knowing full well they didn’t
really represent anything and then you would
spend up that endowment, you would deplete it almost overnight. So that’s the sense in
which I think of endowment as that sort of accumulated set
of commitments and resources and so I guess that’s how I mean it. Now, I agree with you. The reason I don’t like
the term legitimacy or at least it’s the fallback when people try to explain why culture
matters for institutions. The thing they grab first
is the word legitimacy and they tend to mean by it, a belief that the
institution is right or good or the way to do things
and there certainly is that’s gonna make a difference. For example, if at some
point the Supreme Court tells Donald Trump that
he has to do something and he refuses you can
kind of imagine Americans rising up or and saying,
wait a minute our system is that the Supreme Court
is the ultimate arbiter of national law and people have accepted that for generations and we
regard it as illegitimate for you to violate a
Supreme Court directive. And that would be classic. But I guess I think that
those sorts of beliefs that some institution
is really right or good, or that the people currently running it are right or good, that
often really doesn’t exist. And again with my, when I, hanging out in sub-Saharan Africa
and I’d say to people, oh you know what do you
think of your chief? And oh pew, they didn’t use that term. But they’d say, oh you know he just comes he comes to every funeral. Chiefs can’t eat at a funeral because it has to do with witchcraft beliefs, anyway they don’t eat food. But he said that he
comes and he doesn’t eat, but he brings his 10
councilors and they eat you out of house and
home and this very vital thing for people who are very, very poor. And then, so I said to this guy, so well then why don’t you
just refuse to obey him? He just looked at me as
if I was out of my mind. He looked at me as
literally I mean I think he couldn’t believe I said such a thing, and the reason was he said, but what if, what if, and he
could hardly get the words out, what if someone died? And what he was saying is that you couldn’t bury your dead. You couldn’t bury your
dead without this guy. So even if he himself is a bad chief chieftaincy it’s what makes the world run. I guess if you will accept
that legitimacy doesn’t mean thinking chieftaincy is good, it means thinking that chieftaincy is actually how the world runs. – [Woman] Please join me in thanking Ann. (audience applauds) (pleasant music)