Professor of Sociology, University of California, Berkeley and the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University.
The expansion of social citizenship in the 20thcentury mitigated the brute effects of economic inequality in people’s lives. The institutionalization of universal rights and entitlement programs recognized that access to a “civilized” life should not depend on wealth only. Economic and social difference did not disappear—far from it—but it could now legitimate itself through the opportunities offered by, among others, the educational system. The new rights also created new social divisions, however, separating citizens according to their ability to do well through them. In this lecture, I will explore how these twin dynamics of inclusion and stratification play out in the 21stcentury. As digital technologies have enabled a broadening of economic and social incorporation, the possibilities for classifying, sorting, slotting and scaling people have also grown and diversified. New ways of measuring and demonstrating merit have sprung up, some better accepted than others. Institutions, both market and state, find themselves compelled to build up and exploit this efficient, proliferating, fine-grained knowledge in order to manage individual claims on resources and opportunities. This process, I argue, creates new social demands for self-care and individual fitness that possibly erode the universal and solidaristic basis upon which the expansion of citizenship historically thrived.