“The Good Society: Prospects for Reason, Communication, and Well-Being”

The 39th Annual Meeting of the International Society of Political Psychology to be held at the Sheraton Warsaw Hotel in Poland from July 14-17, 2016.

President: John T. Jost (New York University, USA).

Conference Program Co-Chairs:

Michał Bilewicz (University of Warsaw, Poland),

Aleksandra Cichocka (University of Kent, England), and

Christopher Federico (University of Minnesota, USA).

One of the very first political psychologists, Graham Wallas (1914) observed in The Great Society that economic industrialization had been more successful in removing specific causes of unhappiness, such as famine, than in producing genuine happiness. “We must let our minds play freely over all the conditions of life,” he implored readers, “till we can either justify our civilization or change it.” In 1937, Walter Lippmann penned his own version of The Good Society. He warned that his generation had “returned to the heresies of absolutism, authority, and the domination of men by men” and asserted that a universal sense of the inviolability of the rights and freedoms of human beings is what enabled our species to fight our way “out of the morass of barbarism” and that this inviolability must be the foundation of the Good Society.

In the early and middle of the 20th century, reformers and revolutionaries in Europe, Asia, and Latin America—inspired by socialist ideals—made an effort to improve the lives of working people and other exploited groups. In 1989, Poland led the way for a peaceful transformation that swept through Central and Eastern Europe as citizens became deeply disappointed with the authoritarian socialism they had known. Around the same time, in longstanding democracies, a consensus around social-democratic norms gave way to a neoliberal vision emphasizing market efficiency and economic individualism. Twenty five years later, it would appear that a majority of citizens in both contexts are dissatisfied with the results. In the U.S. and many other countries, politics are as destructive, bitter, and corrupt as anyone can remember, and reasoning in the public sphere seems more and more like an unattainable ideal.

What, in the 21st century, is our shared vision of the Good Society, and what are the obstacles to its realization? What is the ideal mix of equality and tradition, individual initiative and social welfare, economic prosperity and environmental responsibility, national and international unity and the cultivation of diversity? As political psychologists, what can we say about how to increase subjective and objective well-being at home and abroad? What do we know about how and why contemporary societies make it so difficult for people to communicate about these matters reasonably and realistically without rapidly deteriorating into ideological hostility or the kind of solipsistic resignation that comes with relativism about human values? In the absence of a shared conception of the Good Society, is it even possible to know what progress in social and political life would look like?

We especially welcome proposals for panels or symposia, along with individual papers and posters, which present theory and research bearing on individual and collective conceptions of the Good Society and the motivational role of those conceptions in fostering political activity. Research may draw on any area of political psychology including, but not limited to, the application of experimental designs, public opinion surveys, and narrative approaches to the study of political ideology, human values, social justice, cultural norms, personality dynamics, social identification, intergroup relations, political leadership, collective action, protest, and societal transformation. We are especially interested in proposals that provide new theoretical, methodological, or empirical insights about how to conceptualize, measure, and foster public reasoning, rationality, communication, understanding, and both subjective and objective well-being in society.

We also welcome symposia, roundtables, papers, and posters on any topic in political psychology. The program chairs are interested in bringing together new research from the fields of political science, psychology, sociology, economics, anthropology, biology, communication, history, philosophy, and other disciplines. We hope to bring about an exciting intellectual exchange that will enrich the study of political psychology and help us to better understand the dynamics of society and politics in the world today.

Confirmed keynote speakers will be Jan T. Gross, Professor of History and Norman B. Tomlinson ’16 and ’48 Professor of War and Society at Princeton University; Arie W. Kruglanski, a Distinguished University Professor of Psychology at the University of Maryland; and Diana C. Mutz, the Samuel A. Stouffer Professor of Political Science and Communication and Director of the Institute for the Study of Citizens and Politics in the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania and a Senior Fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution.

In addition, we are planning a special session involving Janusz Grzelak, a Professor of Psychology at the M. Grzegorzewska Academy of Special Education, the Co-Founder and first President of the Polish Society of Social Psychology, and a former Vice-Minister of Education in Poland, and Janusz Reykowski, a Professor of Psychology at the Polish Academy of Science, a Co-Chair of the Political Roundtable during the period of transition in Poland, a Co-Founder and Chairman of the Academic Council of the Warsaw School of Social Psychology, and a Past President of the International Society of Political Psychology.

Please check www.ispp.org for more information.

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