Acumen Blog

Global Fellows discussing the readings in October of 2013

Good Society: The Acumen Fellowship Reading List

We have recently announced the 2014 classes of PakistanEast Africa, and India Fellows, and are currently selecting participants for the 2015 Global Fellows Program. One of the key aspects of being an Acumen Fellow is the training program we have developed over the years. Constantly evolving over time, one of the core elements of the training is a seminar called Good Society. Fellows spend time reading and discussing the theories of great thinkers, such as Plato, King, and Mandela on how to create a ‘good’ society. Based on the work of the Aspen Institute, the sessions seek to provide Acumen Fellows with the chance to think broadly about the historical and moral traditions of social change work.

Global Fellows discussing the readings in October of 2013

Global Fellows discussing the readings in October of 2013

The reading list incites discussions around the tensions between readings and asks probing questions such as, ‘How do we build a good and just society?’ Below is the reading list that all Fellows will be reading and discussing this year. There are five topics, each contains philosophies that create tension with one another, such as rights versus responsibilities, liberty versus social order. Fellows spend half a day discussing each topic and the inherent tensions between the texts and the questions they provoke.

Rights versus Responsibilities

  • Rights: Universal Declaration of Human Rights; Martin Luther King, Letter From Birmingham City Jail
  • Responsibilities: Plato, The Republic

Efficiency versus Equality

  • Efficiency: Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom
  • Equality: Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract; Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom; Eduardo Galeano, The Nobodies 

Liberty versus Social Order

  • Liberty: Aung San Suu Kyi, A Culture of Peace, Democracy and Human Rights; Mahatma Gandhi, Speech Before Inter-Asian Relations Conferenc; Nelson Mandela, Statement at Rivonia Trial
  • Order: Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan; Fareed Zakaria, Conversation with Lee Kuan Yew 

Identity & Moral Imagination

  • Amin Malouf, On Identity; Binyavanga Wainaina, How to Write About Africa  

Leadership, Power and the Structure of Society

  • Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Inaugural Speech Ibn Khaldun, The Muqaddimah; Chinua Achebe, The University and the Leadership Factor in Nigerian Politics 

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