, Volume 55, Issue 2, pp 99–99 | Cite as

March/April 2018

Social Science and the Public Interest

Liberals and Conservatives

Society is pleased to note recent op-ed articles in the New York Times by two of its advisory editors, Neil Gross and Jon Shields. Gross asks, “Why is Hollywood So Liberal?” He poses several ways to explain the clear leftward, political slant of actors and actresses in the film and television business. Referring to work on empathy by the psychologist Adam Waytz, Gross observes that “The main thing distinguishing liberals and conservatives ... isn’t how empathetic they are overall; rather, the key difference is how much empathy they feel for specific groups. Where conservatives empathize foremost with family members and country, liberals extend the bounds of empathy to include friends, the socially disadvantaged and citizens of the world, to whom they’d like government to lend a hand. It’s not implausible that empathy could help explain actors’ progressive sympathies. If that’s the case, though, it testifies to the remarkable human capacity for hypocrisy that, until now, the bounds of empathy among liberal men in Hollywood have not stretched to include female actors subject to sexual and economic exploitation.” (

Jon Shields makes “A Conservative Case for Identity Politics,” arguing that the identity of a writer matters in ways that neither liberals or conservatives appreciate enough. He writes: “If we want our students to consider the work of authors they’re inclined to disagree with, we professors must take the identity of those authors into account. This doesn’t mean scrubbing all white men from our syllabuses. But when we design an education for our students, we should remember that humans are partial, tribal beings — not rational automatons.” Shield’s counter-intuitive assessment is made in the spirit of both rationality and empathy. He concludes: “Some readers — especially those on the right — may suspect that embracing identity in this way will only embolden campus radicals. But that objection ignores an important truth: Practicing the new identity politics in the right way can subvert the dogmas that drive its excesses. When students read books by a broad intellectual range of evangelical or female or black authors, for example, they learn that there is no single evangelical or female or black perspective. Disagreements about ideas transcend these social categories.” (

Why Social Science?

Wendy Naus, Executive Director of COSSA (Consortium of Social Science Associations) and an Advisory Editor of Society, encourages readers to subscribe online to Why Social Science? which “was launched in 2017 as a project of COSSA aimed at getting social science findings and impacts out to the general public. Our goal has been to talk about our sciences in new and interesting ways, making them feel more accessible and relevant to our everyday lives. The 22 interesting and diverse pieces published in 2017, I think, did just that. I am excited for the stories that will be told through Why Social Science? in 2018.” (Access at:

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

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