Paul Starr. Three Degrees of Entrenchment: Power, Policy, Structure

Monday, September 15, 2014 - 2:00pm to 3:30pm
Blumer Room - 402 Barrows Hall


Three Degrees of Entrenchment: Power, Policy, Structure

In this talk, I propose a framework for analyzing the mechanisms and conditions of entrenchment—the process through which critical aspects of governance, social relations, technology, or beliefs become highly resistant to change. Three degrees of the phenomenon are distinguished:power entrenchment (mechanisms that preserve the power of incumbents); policy or rules entrenchment (mechanisms that may preserve policies or rules even after their originators lose power); and structural entrenchment (mechanisms that convert policies, practices, and beliefs into seemingly obdurate social facts, potentially preserving them as legacies of a regime even after the regime collapses). The mechanisms considered involve changes in the rules of change, costs of change, and choice-sets of actors. Entrenchment is an inter-temporal concept, linking conditions over time, but does not imply permanence: what is entrenched can be disentrenched.

Paul Starr, currently a fellow at Stanford’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, is professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton University and co-editor of The American Prospect, a liberal magazine that he co-founded in 1990 with Robert Kuttner and Robert Reich. He writes and teaches on a wide range of questions in politics, public policy, and social theory. Professor Starr has written three books about health care institutions and policies, including The Social Transformation of American Medicine (1983), which received the Bancroft Prize (American History), C. Wright Mills Award (Sociology), and Pulitzer Prize (General Nonfiction). He has also written on media, the public, and liberalism. His 2004 book The Creation of the Media: Political Origins of Modern Communications received the Goldsmith Book Prize. Freedom's Power (2007) is an account of the philosophical and institutional development of liberalism from its classical to modern phases. He is currently working on a project on the entrenchment of power, law, and social structure.