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Successful Societies


  • 19 b/w illus. 2 tables
  • Page extent: 358 pages
  • Size: 234 x 156 mm
  • Weight: 0.53 kg


 (ISBN-13: 9780521736305)

Why are some societies more successful than others at promoting individual and collective well-being? This book integrates recent research in social epidemiology with broader perspectives in social science to explore why some societies are more successful than others at securing population health. It explores the social roots of health inequalities, arguing that inequalities in health are based not only on economic inequalities, but on the structure of social relations. It develops sophisticated perspectives on social relations, which emphasize the ways in which cultural frameworks as well as institutions condition people's health. It reports on research into health inequalities in the developed and developing worlds, covering a wide range of national case studies, and into the ways in which social relations condition the effectiveness of public policies aimed at improving health.

• Presents an interdisciplinary approach to population health • Based on four years of collaboration among distinguished scholars in a diverse range of social sciences • Develops an understanding of population health as rooted in the 'wear and tear of daily life' and in the social relations that condition it


Introduction Peter A. Hall and Michele Lamont; 1. Population health and the dynamics of collective development Clyde Hertzman and Arjumand Siddiqi; 2. Social interactions in human development: pathways to health and capabilities Daniel P. Keating; 3. Health, social relations and public policy Peter A. Hall and Rosemary C. R. Taylor; 4. Population health and development: an institutional-cultural approach to capability expansion Peter Evans; 5. Responding to AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa: culture, institutions, and health Ann Swidler; 6. Responses to racism, health, and social inclusion as a dimension of successful societies Michele Lamont; 7. Collective imaginary and population health (how health data can highlight cultural history) Gerard Bouchard; 8. Making sense of public health: citizenship regimes and public health in Victorian England Jane Jenson; 9. The multicultural welfare state? Will Kymlicka; 10. From state-centrism to neoliberalism: macro-historical contexts of population health since World War II William H. Sewell, Jr.


'This ambitious and creative volume sets the agenda for how we should think about societal and cultural determinants of health. Hall and Lamont have given us the best volume yet on understanding how societies produce population health. With a stellar set of authors, the book examines the path-dependent processes by which successful societies can lead to improved health outcomes for its citizens. The book integrates the work of social scientists, historians and epidemiologists and is a must read for scholars as well as students in those fields as well as the public. An indispensable volume - it will change the way you think about the production of health and well being!' Lisa F. Berkman, Director of the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, Harvard University

'Scholars have long known that purely materialist accounts cannot explain the steep health gradients we observe within and across societies. This provocative collection of essays forcefully offers an alternative perspective exhorting us to consider how culture, institutions, social networks and other intangible aspects of status (and development) get under our skin – literally – to affect population health. Imagine Amartya Sen meets Erving Goffman …' Dalton Conley, New York University

'Successful Societies is an extraordinary achievement. It establishes robust connections among fields that have been examined largely in isolation from one another and shows scholars how – and why – to weave together cultural, institutional and socio-structural analysis. The volume is filled with vivid examples of the explanatory payoff provided by the approach to explaining 'hard' societal outcomes that it introduces.' Robert M. Fishman, University of Notre Dame

'A diverse group of scholars, united by their quality, desire to understand, and top class ability to communicate, form a successful group and lay out what constitutes a successful society. They bring together a wide array of perspectives and create a clear understanding of the determinants of health and of inequalities in health. This is a special achievement in a brilliantly written book.' Michael Marmot, Chair, Commission on Social Determinants of Health

'This outstanding volume does an outstanding job crossing borders: disciplines, countries, time periods, types of evidence, modes of reasoning. It uses the voyage to great affect, as a model of outstanding interdisciplinary cooperation. It links people from anthropology and sociology to epidemiology, medical sociology, and political science raise fascinating questions about what makes societies work. By comparing countries, the volume forces us to challenge common modes of reasoning. This book is wonderful piece of 'collaborative public intellectuals'. It should be read all over the academy and by the general public.' Peter Gourevitch, University of California at San Diego

'Hall and Lamont have assembled an insightful, provocative and readable set of essays that challenge social scientists to consider the puzzle of what makes a successful, healthy society. The answer is: there is no one universal answer; there are multiple models of well-being. Together the volume builds a powerful argument for the significance of culture. Economic resources and societal inequality are significant. Yet so are those diverse cultural practices and structures that provide meaning and a view of who am I, who are we, what is the good life, what is possible, what is just, who counts and who doesn't.' Hazel Rose Markus, Stanford University

'With an exquisite sense of timing this remarkable collection of uniformly excellent essays by a dazzling array of social scientists, historians, and epidemiologists arrives after an almost 70-year long wait for a contemporary sequel to Karl Polanyi's paradigm-changing critique of the 'standard of living' axiom that higher wages are enough to improve the well-being of a society torn apart by unfettered laissez-faire policies. Just as Polanyi demonstrated that the societal health of a people depends on market-embedding institutional arrangements and a cultural ethic of solidarity, so too Successful Societies represents nothing less than a paradigm-shifting challenge to prevailing market models of what counts as societal success and why some achieve this more than others. Deploying an enormous range of empirical data, the inspiration of thinkers from Amartya Sen to Pierre Bourdieu, and a newly humanized understanding of societal success, the volume is also an urgently needed normative manifesto for the indispensability of egalitarian and inclusive 'social imaginaries' in tandem with institutional foundations for democratic participation.' Margaret Somers, University of Michigan

'… this book serves as an interesting and valuable example of how research on the social determinants of health should move forward. Together, the chapters provide a strong argument for extending the focus on socio-economic factors and social ties from earlier work by including culture, meaning, and norms in research in this field.' Tim Huijts, Radboud University Nijmegen


Peter A. Hall, Michele Lamont, Clyde Hertzman, Arjumand Siddiqi, Daniel P. Keating, Rosemary C. R. Taylor, Peter Evans, Ann Swidler, Gerard Bouchard, Jane Jenson, Will Kymlicka, William H. Sewell, Jr.

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