Conversations Shaping the Course of the 21st Century and the Future of a Free Society
Addressing complex social, economic, and collective action problems facing modern societies requires leading-edge thinking and fresh application of the principles that drive human progress. The Institute for Humane Studies is building an academic network of high-impact scholars through in-person and online research communities that span generational, disciplinary, ideological, and professional divides to develop and advance the ideas that support thriving, free societies and widespread human flourishing. IHS will concentrate its activities and investments from 2022 to 2026 across seven focus areas.
Liberal democracies, more than any other known system of governance, create the conditions by which citizens enjoy high levels of peace, freedom, and prosperity. The Liberalism, Pluralism, and Democracy focus area explores the norms, institutions, and current challenges to the liberal order, especially polarization, social trust, and growing illiberalism at both ends of the ideological spectrum.
Freedoms of speech, thought, and expression are foundational to liberal democratic societies and drive the growth of knowledge, innovation, and social progress. The Free Speech and Open Inquiry focus area explores new and increasingly complex challenges to free speech, from illiberal political movements to sweeping technological change. Such challenges require fresh thinking and civil discourse on how best to ensure that thriving debate and intellectual progress continue to improve individual lives and societies.
The American Dream promises economic mobility and equal opportunity for all. In practice, our society often falls short of the ideals of social equality, erecting barriers that limit access to opportunities by which individuals and communities can pursue their fullest lives. The Equality and Prosperity focus area supports programs and projects that seek to understand the factors, norms, and institutions that best enable widespread human flourishing and barriers that impede it as well as solutions to the societal challenges created by economic uncertainty and inequality.
Liberal principles of individual freedom, universal human dignity, and equality under the law have driven human betterment whenever and wherever these ideas have taken root. Today, these principles still have work to do in eliminating the moral, social, and legal injustices borne by racial and ethnic minorities. The Race in America focus area investigates the breadth and depth of the liberal commitment to racial equality and the impacts of racism on American institutions throughout its history and seeks to support practical policy research that enables measurable progress toward ensuring that all people enjoy the rights, protections, and opportunities of a free society.
Our world is more connected than ever before, woven tightly together through supply chains, instant communication, and easy transportation. The Peace and International Cooperation focus area explores the economic, geopolitical, and cultural benefits of a globally connected world, as well as the tensions and disruptions such a world creates. This focus area seeks cooperative, bottom-up solutions to global challenges from poverty alleviation and global health to climate change.
Among the most fundamental human freedoms is the freedom to move — to leave one place to pursue a better life in another. The Immigration and Freedom focus area investigates the moral, cultural, and economic benefits freedom of movement affords, as well as the tensions and challenges cross-border migration presents to both outgoing and intaking societies. With contemporary debate inflaming political, racial, and other animus, this focus area seeks to support a more nuanced understanding of the economic, moral, and cultural trade offs presented by modern mass migration.
Businesses both large and small are essential to the modern economy, providing the material needs—from food and shelter to the most trifling conveniences—that enable societies to prosper. Under the right conditions, business can do more than just provide for our material needs. Businesses can enable founders and employees alike to contribute to society, create meaning for themselves, and realize their full human potential as well as foster trust and community among disparate groups of people. The Business and the Good Society focus area examines the institutional conditions and moral principles at work when business fosters such outcomes, and what keeps business from achieving those outcomes more consistently.