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Dynamics of Sacred Values and Social Responsibilities

PI: Jeremy Ginges, New School for Social Research

Year selected for award: 2013

Dynamics of Sacred Values and Social Responsibilities in Governance and Conflict Management: The Interplay between Leaders, Devoted Actor Networks, General Populations, and Time

Principal Investigator: Jeremy Ginges, New School for Social Research

Co-Principal Investigators: Scott Atran, University of Michigan & Artis International; Richard Davis, University of Oxford and Artis International; Doug Medin, Northwestern University; John Alderdice, University of Oxford; Adolf Tobeña and Oscar Vilarroya, Universitat Autoónoma de Barcelona 

Years of Award: 2014-2019

Managing Service Agency: Air Force Office of Scientific Research

Project Description:
Most successful political and advocacy (e.g., environmental) groups must manage strong commitment to core values with the pressing responsibilities of governance and implementation of advocacy issues. Perceived compromise over core values can undermine popular legitimacy, but practical compromise may be necessary to ensure the economic and social welfare of the people.  How, then, do such groups maintain values yet meet responsibilities over time? The theoretical and practical implications of the dynamic relationship between values and responsibilities potentially apply to a wide range of political and advocacy movements across the world.  As groups like ISIL, Hamas, Hizballah and others control (or attempt to control) territory they must engage with local populations, which force them to consider how they will enforce and balance their values with the responsibilities of providing core functions of governance, like education, food, health and security.  Exploration of this problem exposes another issue, “why do individuals and groups make costly sacrifices, including fighting and dying, for values they hold?” The theoretical question also applies to nations considering the development of nuclear capabilities. Those that pursue enrichment capacity in support of a weapons program face a dilemma in balancing values and responsibilities in that pursuit because of international sanctions, which can constrain the government’s ability to provide for those governed. Iran’s nuclear program has prompted countries like Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt to consider their own nuclear programs, which threatens an arms race in the volatile Middle East.

Select Publications:
Atran, Scott. 2019. "This Is Your Brain On Terrorism". Foreign Affairs.
Atran, Scott. 2021. "The will to fight". Science.

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