“A Political Economy of Social Categories,” Thomas Pepinsky, Cornell University

Event time: 
Thursday, March 2, 2023 - 12:00pm to 1:30pm
Henry R. Luce Hall (LUCE ), 202 See map
34 Hillhouse Avenue
New Haven, CT 06511
Event description: 


Abstract: Contemporary political science has made significant progress in incorporating the study of gender, race, ethnicity, and other social categories into mainstream political analysis. At the same, contemporary philosophy continues to debate the conceptual foundations of these and other social categories, advancing theoretical arguments that are inconsistent with the way that political scientists employ these categories for descriptive and explanatory purposes. This essay introduces a conceptual theory of social categories with origins in the philosophical literature of social ontology and which builds on recent advances in feminist epistemology and metaphysics. A conferralist account of social categories (Ásta 2018) holds that social categories are constituted by socially significant differences in status, with analytical microfoundations that can incorporate social categories directly into the explanatory architecture of mainstream political science. Reconciling the conceptual foundations of social categories with their use as analytical categories will advance our understanding of the politics of race, gender, and other social identities. However, this reconciliation has implications for how social scientists use social categories for descriptive, explanatory, and inferential purposes.

Thomas Pepinsky is the Walter F. LaFeber Professor of Government and Director of the Southeast Asia Program at Cornell, and Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brooking Institution. He studies comparative politics and political economy, with a focus on emerging market economies in Southeast Asia. He received his Ph.D. in political science from Yale University in May 2007, and joined the Cornell faculty in 2008. His research centers around two themes: the relationship between economic interests and political outcomes, and the interaction between domestic politics and the global economy. Most of his work focuses on emerging markets, and he has a special interest in Southeast Asia and the Muslim world. His current work focuses on issues relating to identity, politics, and political economy in comparative and international politics.

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This workshop is cosponsored with the Leitner Political Economy Seminar.

The Quantitative Research Methods Workshop is sponsored by the ISPS Center for the Study of American Politics and The Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale with support from the Edward J. and Dorothy Clarke Kempf Fund.