Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy
15 March 2024

A bias for hope

A roundtable with Santiago Gerchunoff, Shalini Randeria, and Laurence Whitehead  revisits Albert Hirschman's rich legacy.

Albert O. Hirschman made a series of invaluable contributions to the social sciences - not just in economic and political theory, but also in area studies and comparative history, always with a “bias for hope” in favour of constructive policies of reform. 

A roundtable organized by AHCD on 13 February on the eve of an international workshop on the same theme the next day featured three scholars with extensive knowledge of Hirschman’s work. They discussed his seminal insights and how these enable grasping specific research and policy issues, as well as reflected on the changing forms of civic engagement that produce new configurations of "voice" and "exit.” 

Moderator Christine Lutringer, Senior Researcher and Executive Director, AHCD, opened the event by noting that “Albert Hirschman has spread ideas across different areas, different continents. He has inspired scholarly and policy projects, including the creation of research programmes such as ours at AHCD […] and importantly in Latin America.”

In a first round of questions, panelists reflected on their personal encounters with, and influence from, Albert Hirschman. Shalini Randeria, Professor of Anthropology and Sociology & President and Rector, Central European University, Vienna, recounted her experience coinciding with Hirschman in Berlin, at the Institute for Advanced Study, during his first time back in the city since his expatriation to the United States. She also highlighted the application of Hirschman’s “Exit, Voice, and Loyalty” framework to political questions, underscoring the centrality of this concept to AHCD, of which she was the first and founding Director.

Santiago Gerchunoff, Professor of Political Theory, Universidad Carlos III, Madrid, then underscored that Hirschman’s two most famous triads – exit, voice and loyalty, and perversity, futility, jeopardy – have “an incredible vitality today”. Laurence Whitehead, Senior Research Fellow in Politics, Nuffield College, Oxford University, reflected on Hirschman’s influence on his own understanding of Latin American economics early in his career – which he increasingly saw as a product of politics and context –  and prompted him to chose political science rather than economics as his primary field of study.


READ about the international workshop “A bias for hope,” which took place the next day.

A Bias for Hope : Revisiting Albert Hirschman's Legacy