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Bradley Campbell — How to Think About Social Justice

How to Think Better About Social Justice (book cover)

Those who are pursuing social justice too often fail to incorporate the insights of sociology, and when they do make use of sociology, they often draw heavily from claims that are highly contested, unsupported by the evidence, or outright false. This book shows why learning to think sociologically can help us to think better about social justice, pointing us toward possibilities for social change while also calling attention to our limits; providing us with hope, but also making us cautious. Offering a series of tips for thinking better about social justice, with each chapter giving examples of bad sociological thinking and making the case for drawing from a broader range of sociological theory and research to inform social justice efforts, it advocates an approach rooted in intellectual and moral humility, grounded in the normative principles of classical liberalism. A fresh approach to social justice that argues for the importance of sociological understanding of the world in our efforts to change it, How to Think Better About Social Justice will appeal to scholars and students of sociology with interests in social justice issues and the sociology of morality, as well as those working to bring about social change.


Bradley Campbell is a professor of sociology at California State University, Los Angeles. His work examines moral conflict, including violent conflicts such as genocide as well as nonviolent conflicts on college campuses over politics and free speech. He is the author of The Geometry of Genocide: A Study in Pure Sociology and co-author of The Rise of Victimhood Culture: Microaggressions, Safe Spaces, and the New Culture Wars. He has also co-authored op-ed articles about contemporary moral conflicts that have appeared in Time, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and The New York Times.

Shermer and Campbell discuss:

  • What is sociology?
  • Telos of sociology: truth or activism?
  • Facts and Values
  • Utopia, Dystopia, Protopia
  • Liberalism vs. illiberalism vs. Conservatism vs. Populism
  • Pluralism
  • Science and Ideology
  • Classical Liberalism: Francis Fukyuama: “a range of political views that nonetheless agree on the foundational importance of equal individual rights, law, and freedom.”
  • Social justice scholars argue classical liberalism only favors the dominant group.
  • Right: liberalism “generates titanic inequality, enforces uniformity and homogeneity, fosters material and spiritual degradation, and undermines freedom.” (Patrick Deneen’s Why Liberalism Failed)
  • Right: liberalism has to do with self-governance, discipline, cultivation of virtue.
  • Durkheim: individuals as social creatures, so rejects the social contract
  • Thomas Sowell’s constrained vs. unconstrained visions of politics
  • Can we make people better? Can we incentivize good behavior (rational choice theory)
  • Evaluating ideologies
  • Victimhood culture vs. honor culture
  • Conflicting rights and social tradeoffs
  • Critical Theory, Critical Race Theory
  • What is multi-culturalism?
  • What is identity and identity politics?
  • Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI)
  • identity politics
  • What is progressive?
  • What are the true motives of woke progressive leftists?
  • How widespread is the problem of woke ideology?
  • Equality vs. Equity
  • cancel culture
  • Overt racism vs. systemic racism
  • Why do Blacks make less money, own fewer and lower quality homes, work in less prestigious jobs, hold fewer seats in the Senate and House of Representatives, run fewer Fortune 500 companies, etc.?

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This episode was released on May 21, 2024.

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