Musa al-Gharbi, "Symbolic Revolutions Among Symbolic Capitalists"

Hybrid: In Person, 402 Social Sciences Building & via Zoom

There seems to have been a rapid change in recent years in how people talk and think about social justice issues. But how dramatic or broad has the purported shift actually been? When did it start? How durable are current trends likely to be? Who is driving the change? Is this a genuinely novel historical moment? Or are there relevant precedents that can provide us analytical leverage into what’s happening today?

Drawing from his forthcoming book, al-Gharbi will argue that there has indeed been a significant shift in norms and discourse around ‘identity’ issues over the last decade, particularly among a specific subset of the population. The talk will illustrate some ways we can measure the magnitude and timing of the shifts and who seems to be driving them. It will show that the current period of tumult over feminism, antiracism, LGBTQ rights and related causes seems to be a ‘case’ of something. The talk will conclude with an exploration of how understanding the current moment in the context of previous cases can clarify what may have inspired the shifts – and what did not – and how trends may play out over the short-to-medium term.  


Musa al-Gharbi is a Paul F. Lazarsfeld Fellow in Sociology at Columbia University. His research explores how people talk about, think about, and produce a shared understanding of social phenomena. His first book, We Have Never Been Woke: Social Justice Discourse, Inequality and the Rise of a New Elite is forthcoming in 2023 with Princeton University Press. More on Musa and his work is available on his website: