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  • Published: 14 April 2020
  • ISBN: 9780262538985
  • Imprint: MIT Press
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 344
  • RRP: $37.00

How Change Happens



The different ways that social change happens, from unleashing to nudging to social cascades."Sunstein's book is illuminating because it puts norms at the center of how we think about change."—David Brooks, The New York Times
How does social change happen? When do social movements take off? Sexual harassment was once something that women had to endure; now a movement has risen up against it. White nationalist sentiments, on the other hand, were largely kept out of mainstream discourse; now there is no shortage of media outlets for them. In this book, with the help of behavioral economics, psychology, and other fields, Cass Sunstein casts a bright new light on how change happens.
Sunstein focuses on the crucial role of social norms—and on their frequent collapse. When norms lead people to silence themselves, even an unpopular status quo can persist. Then one day, someone challenges the norm—a child who exclaims that the emperor has no clothes; a woman who says “me too.” Sometimes suppressed outrage is unleashed, and long-standing practices fall.
Sometimes change is more gradual, as “nudges” help produce new and different decisions—apps that count calories; texted reminders of deadlines; automatic enrollment in green energy or pension plans. Sunstein explores what kinds of nudges are effective and shows why nudges sometimes give way to bans and mandates. Finally, he considers social divisions, social cascades, and “partyism,” when identification with a political party creates a strong bias against all members of an opposing party—which can both fuel and block social change.

  • Published: 14 April 2020
  • ISBN: 9780262538985
  • Imprint: MIT Press
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 344
  • RRP: $37.00

About the author

Cass R Sunstein

Cass R. Sunstein specializes in constitutional law, regulatory policy, and economic analysis of law. In the academic world, he is by far the most cited law professor in the United States. He has also written for many popular newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The Chicago Tribune, The American Prospect, Time, Harpers, and The New Republic. He has also appeared on many national television and radio shows, including Nightline, Fox News, the ABC Evening News, the NBC Evening News, 20/20, the News Hour, The O'Reilly Factor, and Fresh Air.

Sunstein graduated in 1975 from Harvard College and in 1978 from Harvard Law School magna cum laude. After graduation, he clerked for Justice Thurgood Marshall of the U.S. Supreme Court. Before joining the faculty of the University of Chicago Law School, he worked as an attorney-advisor in the Office of the Legal Counsel of the U.S. Department of Justice. Mr. Sunstein has testified before congressional committees on many subjects, and he has been involved in constitution-making and law reform activities in a number of nations, including Ukraine, Poland, China, South Africa, and Russia. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Mr. Sunstein has been Samuel Rubin Visiting Professor of Law at Columbia, visiting professor of law at Harvard, vice-chair of the ABA Committee on Separation of Powers and Governmental Organizations, chair of the Administrative Law Section of the Association of American Law Schools, a member of the ABA Committee on the future of the FTC, and a member of the President's Advisory Committee on the Public Service Obligations of Digital Television Broadcasters.

Mr. Sunstein is author of many articles and a number of books, including Republic.com (2001), Risk and Reason (2002), The Cost-Benefit State (2002), Why Societies Need Dissent (2003), The Second Bill of Rights (2004), Laws of Fear: Beyond the Precautionary Principle (2005), and Worst-Case Scenarios (2007). He is now working on various projects involving the relationship between law and human behavior

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Praise for How Change Happens

Sunstein's book is illuminating because it puts norms at the center of how we think about change.—David Brooks, The New York Times— In this dense and technical, but illuminating, work influenced by behavioral science and political philosophy, legal scholar and policy theorist Sunstein (Nudge) further develops his ideas on how changes in attitude and behavior ought to happen.... This is a work that demands—but rewards—the reader's full attention. Starred Review. —Publishers Weekly— Sunstein's book is illuminating because it puts norms at the center of how we think about change. —The New York Times

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