MacArthur Fellow Elizabeth Anderson Speaks on Creating an Egalitarian Society

(Photo credit David Paterson – used with permission)

MacArthur Fellow Grant Winner Elizabeth Anderson will deliver the 2024 PPE Distinguished Public Lecture at Virginia Tech.

Elizabeth Anderson is the Max Shaye Professor of Public Philosophy, John Dewey Distinguished University Professor, and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. In the past, she held the John Rawls Collegiate Professorship of Philosophy and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan and received her Ph.D. from Harvard University.

Professor Anderson is the author of Value in Ethics and Economics (Harvard University Press, 1993), The Imperative of Integration (Princeton University Press, 2010), Private Government: How Employers Rule Our Lives (Princeton University Press, 2017), and Hijacked (Cambridge University Press, 2023). She has published numerous articles on the ethical limitations of markets, facts and values in social scientific research, feminist and social epistemology, racial integration and affirmative action, rational choice and social norms, democratic theory, egalitarianism, and the history of ethics (focusing on Kant, Mill, and Dewey). She is currently working on a history of egalitarianism.

Professor Anderson is a MacArthur Fellow, Guggenheim Fellow, Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a Fellow of the British Academy. In 2018, she was named a Progress Medal Laureate by the Society for Progress for her book Private Government. In 2020, she was named one of the world’s top 50 thinkers by Prospect Magazine. Professor Anderson designed and was the first Director of the Program in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the University of Michigan.

At Virginia Tech, Professor Anderson will speak about “Challenges to Creating an Egalitarian Society.” Around the world, democratic states are confronting the rise of authoritarian movements that threaten democratic norms and the rule of law. Theorists have attributed this trend to demagogues spreading narratives that activate fear and resentment among their followers. Professor Anderson will argue that these explanations overlook a third motive: the desire of particular identity groups within these societies to secure their historically superior prestige or status over what they view as antagonistic and inferior identity groups in their societies. Professor Anderson builds on Rousseau’s argument that esteem competition is a fundamental driver of social inequality, and that dominant groups manipulate the rules of esteem competition by promulgating deceptive ideologies. She then considers how these deceptions can be unmasked and alternative democratic narratives can inspire hope for a better, more just world.

The lecture will take place on April 3, 2024, from 5-6:30pm in the Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre of the Moss Arts Center. No tickets are required. The lecture will be followed by a public reception. All faculty, students, and members of the public are cordially invited to attend this event. Here is a link to the VT News feature about the lecture.

If you are an individual with a disability and desire an accommodation, please contact Holly Belcher ( at least ten business days before the event.

Photos taken by Richard Mallory Allnutt.

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