The Emerson Collective announced the selection of Tufts Professor of Political Science Eitan Hersh as his new companion on January 25 . The Emerson Collective is a for-profit organization that seeks to create social change through philanthropy, advocacy and investment. They partner with entrepreneurs, experts, policy makers, advocates and creatives to promote equality and justice.
hersh joined the Collective Democracy Cohort, an interdisciplinary group of fellows working to study and strengthen democratic systems. As a fellow, Hersh will receive funding to research his next book.
“Almost all of my work is in the space of democracy…but the project…that I’m currently working on, which I think will be my next book, is specifically about business and the role that ‘they play into the pursuit of our democracy,’ Hersh said. .
He said that business leaders are powerful actors in capitalist democracies.
“Politicians generally don’t want to screw up the economy, and so they don’t want to do big things without business on board,” Hersh said. “Voters really like it because voters work for companies and invest in companies. Nobody wants the economy to be screwed up, and because of that, business people have a lot of power.
Hersh suggested that there are different ways for powerful business leaders to engage in democracy.
“Do they just have to try to push for things that are good for them personally or good for their businesses?” Hersh asked. “Should they try to spend time helping to push through government policies that are good for the economy in general or good for the environment?”
Business leaders have an interest in promoting public stability, but also in maximizing opportunities for their own private enterprises. Hersh also said that big companies and smaller ones have different behavioral tendencies in politics.
“As far as retailers or small businesses are concerned, they are usually active in local government,” Hersh said. “In a place like Massachusetts, you have employers who are involved in construction, utilities, or insurance – they’re still at the Statehouse, but you have huge employers in Massachusetts, including universities, hospitals [and] law firms, who don’t necessarily see why they should plead before the Statehouse, and for what?”
Hersh’s research focuses on both giant corporations at the national level and the decisions of big players in any political community.
“If you think that [businesspeople] should be the adults in the room, so they need some sort of plan for how to do this in a way that doesn’t suppress other people’s voices,” he said.
Similar to his previous book, “Politics is for Power: How to Go Beyond the Political Pastime, Take Action and Make a Real Change(2020), Hersh’s new book will be combine various research methods.
“Part of it is narrative storytelling and qualitative interviewing, and part of it is analysis of survey data and other kinds of quantitative measurement,” he Explain.
He is currently working with students to survey the general public and business leadersa group that he said can be difficult to assess.
Deborah Schildkrautchair of the political science department, highlighted the importance of political science research and how it informs how we build equitable societies.
“There’s a lot of things that maybe feel right in our gut and it turns out the data and the evidence just doesn’t support it,” Schildkraut said. “But it can also be very helpful in confirming the things we thought we knew were true.”
Research can uncover causal relationships in the social world, which can then be used by people to convert their potential into power and make gains on issues that matter to them.
“Social science, like all sciences, works best when many people tackle a similar problem from different angles using different methods,” Schildkraut said.
Elaine Donnelly, Director of the Community Research Center at Tisch Collegediscussed the range of social science research.
“The [research] the questions stem from community concerns,” Donnelly said. “[It] it can be geographic, it can be demographic, you know, however you define community. … In this process, ideally, all partners are involved at all stages of the research.
In terms of promoting democracy and engagement, research is key to creating knowledge.
“Data is more accurate, interpretations are more useful [and] diffusion [and] the distribution of results … gets where it needs to be,” Donnelly said.
Schildkraut noted that Tufts students have the advantage of studying at a university that values civic engagement and opportunities for participation.
hersh reflected on its larger research purpose as Fellow of the Emerson Collective.
“I want students, and anyone who learns from me, to have that moment where they realize all the grayness of this world,” he said. “These things are complicated, and it’s good to have a nuanced approach.”