ABSTRACT | America's tradition of pluralism — governance across differences — has been strained by the reorientation of political debate to social issues that are tightly tethered to matters of personal identity and beliefs. In this lecture, Professor Justin Gest will explore the political and social consequences of pluralism and division, and evaluate research that attempts to mitigate prejudice and foster greater inclusivity. He finds that the United States faces two overarching, long-running, and intertwined challenges that weaken America’s democratic institutions by fueling division: 1) changing demographics and (2) the sorting of demographic and ideological groups into two increasingly distinct and identity-aligned political parties. There is extensive space for social innovation to identify new interventions to address these challenges, but current social science suggests that headway can be made by galvanizing public bodies and private actors to facilitate more intergroup contact.
BIO | Justin Gest is a Professor at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government. He is the author of six books and a variety of peer-reviewed articles on immigration and the politics of demographic change. He co-edits the Oxford University Press book series, “Oxford Studies in Migration and Citizenship” and has provided reporting or commentary for ABC, BBC, CBC, CNN, The Guardian, Los Angeles Times, NPR, The New York Times, Politico, Reuters, Vox, and The Washington Post. In 2014 and 2020, Professor Gest received Harvard University’s Joseph R. Levenson Memorial Teaching Prize and George Mason University’s Teaching Excellence Award, respectively each university’s highest award for faculty teaching. In 2013, he received the Star Family Prize for Student Advising, Harvard’s highest award for student advising. In 2007, he co-founded the Migration Studies Unit at the London School of Economics (LSE).