Researchers at a new teaching and research center at University of California at Berkeley are aiming to address big social challenges through interdisciplinary work, university officials announced.
Political scientists, economists, sociologists and historians among others are forming the Berkeley Economy and Society Initiative to research the intersection of markets and government — a branch of research often referred to as political economy.
The new center will focus in particular on four problem areas: inequality, the environment and climate, technology, and capitalism and democracy.
“We need fresh thinking,” said Paul Pierson, a political science professor and the inaugural director of the new center.
“The next generation will be dealing with these problems, and we want to help them get the training they need,” Pierson said.
“We need fresh thinking. The next generation will be dealing with these problems, and we want to help them get the training they need.”Paul Pierson, director of the Berkeley Economy and Society Initiative
He said he knows of no other university in the nation that combines extensive interdisciplinary programs in political economy for undergraduates, graduate students and faculty.
UC Berkeley already has a large undergraduate major in political economy and a formal program for dozens of graduate students doing interdisciplinary work.
“We’re trying to coax them out of their silos,” Pierson said of the students and researchers in separate fields of study.
Political economy can produce critical insights to address big social challenges and build an economy that “works for everyone,” Pierson said.
The new center is receiving $10 million over five years from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, which promotes ideas and institutions for a better world.
The center will be located on campus on the eighth floor of the Social Sciences Building. It will be housed in the Social Science Matrix, which can host seminars, lectures and conferences.
The initiative will be part of the university’s College of Letters and Science.