Pitt’s Center for Governance and Market Receives $2.4 Million Grant from John Templeton Foundation to Study How Societies Overcome Deep Differences

A team led by the Center for Governance and Markets (CGM) at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs will examine the way societies manage and overcome polarization and social cleavages with a $2.4 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation. The project, “Governing Deep Difference: Modus Vivendi, Polycentrism, and Institutional Diversity,” is co-led by Jennifer Brick Murtazashvili, Associate Professor of Public and International Affairs, and Paul Dragos Aligică, KPMG Professor of Governance at the University of Bucharest and Senior Fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

The three-year research project confronts one of the most important governance issues facing the world today: how increasing social diversity, pluralism of values, worldviews and ways of life created by contemporary social and technological changes are redefining societies and communities, often fostering conflict.

“This work is so important in our context of ever-increasing interconnectedness of systems and people across the globe, coupled with deepening divides across so many facets of our society,” said Carissa Slotterback, Dean of the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.

Rather than simply identifying sources of polarization, the project will explore the tools communities develop to overcome deep differences under conditions of growing heterogeneity. To do this, it will develop and test a range of intellectual traditions investigating and articulating tolerance-based solutions to these challenges.

The project brings political philosophers working on issues of pluralism into dialogue with researchers and practitioners analyzing these issues in real-time. Scholars will combine quantitative survey data along with qualitative field research in Romania, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, the United States (with a focus on Rust Belt communities around Pittsburgh), as well as other countries, to understand the possibility and limits of the ways individuals and communities manage tensions and coexist. CGM will work with a range of global research partners including those at the Kyiv School of Economics (Ukraine), University of Bucharest (Romania), and Ergo Analytics (Uzbekistan). 

“We’re pleased to support this project, which will explore some of the most fundamental challenges to free societies,” said Amy Proulx, Director of Individual Freedom & Free Markets at the John Templeton Foundation. “Understanding how diverse communities are able to successfully navigate their deep differences is a critical step in promoting human flourishing. The project also has important implications for our work related to pluralism, human rights, political freedoms such as religious liberty and free expression, and the institutions that protect those freedoms.”

The project will foster a global network of scholars and practitioners focused on these issues. It will do this by convening social scientists from a range of backgrounds including philosophy, political science, economics, anthropology, and sociology who will work alongside community leaders, practitioners, and policymakers.