Chatham House Primer: Making Change

Members event Recording
4 April 2019 — 6:00PM TO 7:00PM
Chatham House | 10 St James's Square | London | SW1Y 4LE

What causes substantive political and social change? Do governments, groups or individuals really have any control? Why is change so difficult to predict reliably or even to understand fully in retrospect?

The author, academic and former Obama administration ‘regulatory czar’, Cass Sunstein, explores how change happens: be it gradual, such as the creeping prominence of social media in every facet of modern life, or rapid, such as the viral spread of the #MeToo movement and its international variants.

Drawing on his work in behavioural economics, law and psychology, among other fields, Sunstein outlines the necessary components for realizing change and explains how he believes this understanding allows us to recognize - and address - some of the key causes of damaging societal divisions.

The talk covers:

  • Changing normative behaviour: what causes political and social change?
  • The crucial role of social norms
  • Mechanisms of change: unleashing, nudging, social cascades
  • The unpredictability problem

About Chatham House Primers
The Chatham House Primer Series is a unique programme of talks designed to bridge the gap between introductory level subject knowledge and a more advanced understanding geared towards practical application, higher-level discussion and policy debate.

With each talk hosted by a leading expert, the Primer series aims to provide the audience with a solid grounding in topics of academic curiosity, key international affairs concepts and the issues behind the news.


Cass R Sunstein, Robert Walmsley University Professor, Harvard Law School; Administrator, White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (2009-12); Author, How Change Happens and On Freedom

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