331. Seeing Others: The Importance of Being Recognized and Valued with Michèle Lamont

Inequality is a pervasive problem in society that leads to individuals and entire communities feeling undervalued and neglected and can have adverse impacts. We excitedly welcome acclaimed Harvard sociologist Michèle Lamont for this discussion, who joins Debbie to impart wisdom and discoveries from her powerful book, Seeing Others: How Recognition Works and How It Can Heal a Divided World. As they explore the complicated topic of recognition in society, Michele draws from almost four decades of research and interviews with young adults, cultural figures, and advocates for change to highlight the differences in treatment given to certain groups, the impacts of denied recognition, and the role of narratives in shaping societal and cultural norms and values. We also get Michele’s informed perspective on the social changes needed for us to cultivate a more compassionate and inclusive society. If this topic speaks to you, please join us for this very meaningful discussion and be part of the change we want to see in the world!

Listen and Learn: 

  • Michele explains how certain groups within society are valued and recognized, while others are left feeling devalued and overlooked
  • The denial of recognition and dignity to marginalized groups and how this negatively impacts their well-being and sense of value within society
  • Why psychology may not be able to capture the concept of worth comprehensively
  • How internalized cultural narratives perpetuate and become embedded over time, and what is being done at a cultural level to change them
  • What is normal universalism? 
  • Is there hope for a more inclusive future that values and includes all people?
  • If Michèle could change one narrative related to the concept of worthiness, what would it be?


About Michele Lamont 

Dr. Michèle Lamont is a Professor of Sociology and of African and African American Studies and the Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies at Harvard University. An influential cultural sociologist who studies boundaries and inequality, she has tackled topics such as dignity, respect, stigma, racism, class, and racial boundaries, and how we evaluate social worth across societies. Her most recent book is Seeing Others: How Recognition Works and How It Can Heal a Divided World (forthcoming with Simon and Schuster, September 2023). Her other books include: Money, Morals, and Manners (1992), The Dignity of Working Men (2000), How Professors Think (2009), as well as the coauthored Getting Respect (2016). After studying with Pierre Bourdieu and others in Paris in the early eighties, Lamont emerged as a pioneer in cultural and comparative sociology, helping to define these fields as we know them today. Her many awards include the C. Wright Mills Award from the Society for the Study of Social Problems for The Dignity of Working Men, the 2014 Guttenberg Award, the 2017 Erasmus Prize, and honorary doctorates from six countries. She served as President of the American Sociological Association in 2016, was a Carnegie Fellow in 2021-2022, and was inducted into the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 2023. She co-chaired the advisory board to the 2022 United Nations Human Development Report, “Uncertain Times, Unsettled Lives: Shaping our Future in a World in Transformation.”

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Episode 331