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Claude S. Fischer

Claude S. Fischer is Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley and author of Made in America. In his bimonthly BR column, Fischer explores controversial social and cultural issues using tools of sociology and history.

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Fixing inequality is about more than addressing the income gap.

Claude S. Fischer
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Government has always played an outsize role in creating jobs—and still can.

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Cities are now playgrounds for the rich, with the poor forced into suburbs.

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Polls are bad at picking presidents but still have much to teach us.

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Historical segregation turns out to have been greater than we thought—and it hasn't gone away.

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An older curly-haired white woman and a young blonde-haired white woman sit on the hood of a vintage car.

Lily Tomlin and Julia Garner in Grandma.

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Systematic, reliable evidence that Americans converse less in person than before is hard to find.

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Americans seem likelier than other Westerners to believe the world is fair.

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In true American style, Brooks understands our lives to be the products of individual will alone.

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Trends in American Opinion

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The less affluent are increasingly leading “non-standard” lives.

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The instability of the white working class.

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Below the surface–and sometimes above it–a lot of today’s debates around immigration reform are about cultural assimilation.

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Political correctness tends to close off important, if uncomfortable, topics.

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A mural featuring three men-- one writing, one making cloth, and one in overalls headed to a factory with a sledge slung over his left shoulder.

Smithian ideas about natural political laws and natural human reason thrived long beyond the Revolution.

Claude S. Fischer
A reenactment of Adam naming animals from the Bible. In a verdant but darkly lit garden, a man with shoulder-length brown hair and a beard holds his hand out towards two deer. He does not appear to be wearing clothes.

It is when science directly touches faith that the conflict flares up.

Claude S. Fischer
An old ad, reading "Liability Hair Held Him Back Until," with three oversized male heads underneath

How America traded formality for authenticity.

Claude S. Fischer
A black and white picture from the 1940s. Two women, wearing round brimmed hats and fur coats, chat in a drugstore.

One of the major changes in American life about 100-120 years ago was the domestication of public spaces.

Claude S. Fischer
A Golden Arches sign reading "Now Hiring / Daylight" next to a red-roofed McDonald's.

From job-seeking to medical treatment, many decision-makers decide with a racial tilt (consciously or not).

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Claude S. Fischer paints a broad picture of what Americans say they want—and suggests what might finally get them there.

Claude S. Fischer
The cover of a book titled "On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City." The image shows two buildings next to each other, one green and yellow, one red brick.

Heated response to “slum ethnography” is as old as the genre itself.

Claude S. Fischer
An archival image of three Ku Klux Klan members in white hooded robes burning a tall cross.

If what we today consider racism was a norm in America’s recent past and is the norm in many places around the world, how can it also be a psychopathology, an abnormal psychological condition?

Claude S. Fischer
A white passenger car with a magenta mustache on the bumper.

New peer-to-peer purchases are a step back to a more informal economy.

Claude S. Fischer
A black and white picture of cars parked under a Chicago overpass in 1994.

A bad environment can worsen the life chances not only of a child, but that of the child’s child.

Claude S. Fischer
A pink and white standardized test answer sheet full of bubbles to be filled in. Under "Gender," the bubble for "female" is filled in.

Many social research tools are in flux. Words come and go.

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A print of a black and white woodcut from the 19th century showing a collection of beggars under a tree, in front of a wall with a wooden gate.

Do they affect individuals and societies more or less than do material circumstances such as economic incentives, physical constraints, and military force?

Claude S. Fischer
An old black and white image of a man in a bowler hat and long coat giving money to a beggar, who sits on a ledge on the side of the street.

Relying on empathy to motivate charity means that it is not enough that the needy are humans, but they must also be lucky.

Claude S. Fischer
A group of young protestors, some with their hands up, stand around memorial for Michael Brown at night.

However vast the media apparatus may be, the disturbances have not spread.

Claude S. Fischer
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How egoism can also lead to self-defeating self-blame.

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Concerns about the harms of new devices obscure the ways in which people have long adapted to technologies.

Claude S. Fischer

It is worth pausing to reflect on how women’s participation in politics has changed over the course of American history.

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Corruption of the system certainly occurs, much too often, but stands out precisely because it is not the norm.

Claude S. Fischer

Has the State of the Union address become more egocentric?

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Running up debt is as American as the founding fathers. So is fleeing from it.

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The American workplace increasingly rewards (and expects) long hours.

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Middle-class Americans have alternatively immersed themselves in and withdrawn from public urban spaces.

Claude S. Fischer

The way New Yorkers responded to the 9/11 tragedy harkened back to the earlier Victorian-era styles.

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We are moving into an era where the direct influence of money on politics breaches new ground.

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The urban left’s eco-puritanism takes many forms. 

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Americans want action on inequality in a notably American way.

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Two radical notions in the early 1970s, having a black president and permitting homosexual marriage, have pretty much come to pass.

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There are great improvements in human welfare yet to be made, especially for the less powerful, over the seemingly optimal arrangements of today.

Claude S. Fischer

Early Americans well understood that life and making a living were precarious.

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Critics of the broadening inequality insist that earnings have been flat or dropping. They have—for men.

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Outside the fantasy novels of Ayn Rand and Robert Heinlein, libertarianism does not make much anthropological or historical sense. 

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Public housing has been a significant part of the debate over American government safety net programs.

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Social media is only the latest development in a long history of community support.

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The success of humanitarian appeals  is not a given of human nature. They work because we have come to sympathize with the suffering of others, distant and alien.

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The American ideal of local government is productive in many ways, but also costly.

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The left's separation from the churches means continuing estrangement from middle America.

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The decades-long rise in IQs suggests that intelligence is not biologically fixed.

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After decades of such astonishing change, the gender revolution appears over—before its completion.

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Does e-dating undermine our commitment to any one person?

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Should economists be studying happiness?

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We are entering the season of the Great American Choice, the quadrennial selection of our leader.

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Why Don’t Americans Take Vacations?

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The “culture of poverty” isn’t about moral failure but about reasonable adaptation to circumstances.

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Isolation Isn’t a Growing Problem

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An interview with Fischer about his new BR column.

David V. Johnson Claude S. Fischer
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Steven Pinker’s Good News

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Are the harms of economic inequality primary psychological? 

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How do we decide what is individual talent and what is luck?

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According to both a new book and the United Nations’ Human Development Index, the good life is about three things: living long, going to school, and being wealthy.

Claude S. Fischer