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Vol. LVII, No. 18
September 9, 2005

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Etzioni To Give Director's Cultural Lecture, Sept. 21

Dr. Amitai Etzioni

Internationally known communitarian Dr. Amitai Etzioni, University professor and director of the Institute for Communitarian Policy Studies, George Washington University, will give the NIH Director's Cultural Lecture on Wednesday, Sept. 21 at 3 p.m. in Masur Auditorium, Bldg. 10. He will address "How Societies Reach New Shared Moral Understandings," a topic that he covers in his most recent book, From Empire to Community, A New Approach to International Relations.

He will discuss "moral dialogues," a concept he explains in the book: ".a process has developed that enables people of different nations, from both the East and in the West, to come to shared moral understandings on specific issues. These issues range from values that drive the movement to ban land mines, to the quest to curb the warming of the Earth, to the condemnation of child pornography, to opposition to the invasion of sovereign countries. These shared understandings, in turn, serve to feed a worldwide public opinion."

In the book, Etzioni argues that a "clash of civilizations" can be avoided and that the new world order need not look like America. Eastern values, including spirituality and moderate Islam, have a legitimate place in the evolving global public philosophy. According to Etzioni, nation-states can no longer attend to rising transnational problems, from SARS to the trade in sex slaves to cybercrime. Global civil society does help, but without some kind of global authority, transnational problems will overwhelm us. The building blocks of this new order can be found in the war against terrorism, multilateral attempts at deproliferation and humanitarian interventions. Basic safety, human rights and global social issues such as environmental protection are best solved cooperatively; Etzioni explores ways of creating global authorities robust enough to handle these issues as he outlines the journey from "empire to community."

After receiving his Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1958, Etzioni served as a professor of sociology at Columbia University for 20 years; part of that time he was chairman of the department. He was a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution in 1978 before serving as a senior advisor to the Carter White House from 1979 to 1980. In 1980, he was named the first University professor at GWU, where he also directs the Institute for Communitarian Policy Studies, a nonpartisan research organization dedicated to finding constructive solutions to social problems through morally informed policy analysis and open moral dialogue. From 1987 to 1989, he served as Thomas Henry Carroll Ford Foundation professor at Harvard Business School.

Etzioni was president of the American Sociological Association from 1994 to 1995, and in 1989-1990 was founding president of the international Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics. In 1990, he founded the Communitarian Network, a not-for-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to shoring up the moral, social and political foundations of society. He was editor of The Responsive Community: Rights and Responsibilities, the organization's quarterly journal, from 1991 to 2004.

Etzioni is the author of over 30 books, including The Monochrome Society, The Limits of Privacy, The New Golden Rule (which received the Simon Wiesenthal Center's 1997 Tolerance Book Award), The Spirit of Community and The Moral Dimension: Toward a New Economics. His most recent books include My Brother's Keeper: A Memoir and a Message and How Patriotic is the Patriot Act?: Freedom Versus Security in the Age of Terrorism.

The lecture is part of the NIH Director's Wednesday Afternoon Lecture Series and is sponsored by NHGRI. Physicians can earn continuing education credit by attending. For more information/accommodation, contact Hilda Madine at (301) 594-5595 or email

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