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Future Hindsight is a weekly podcastthat takes big ideas in civic life and democracy and turns them into action items for everyday citizens.

Mar 3, 2022

Danielle Allen is a MacArthur Fellow and the James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard University. She’s published broadly in democratic theory, political sociology, and the history of political thought, and is widely known for her work on justice and citizenship. Her most recent book is Democracy in the Time of Coronavirus. We discuss the promise of good governance, common purpose, and our moral compass in action.


Democracy Works

Good governance bolsters democracy by delivering for people in real ways that improve quality of life. For instance, it lowers the costs of living, makes quality healthcare accessible, and addresses the climate crisis, racial injustice, and more. Effective government connects hope with getting things done.


Common Purpose

Finding a common purpose is what fosters action. If individuals and communities can unite over a common purpose, they will have a target to work towards. Shared goals make it possible for teams to work cohesively and effectively. If we know where we are going collectively, then we can apply this to any issue that plagues our democracy, from inequality to climate.


Moral Compassion in Action

Our moral compass is already in action across the nation. For example, working together for fairness is much more common than one might think. Ballot propositions often achieve super majority votes. In Massachusetts, more than 70% of voters in 2020 voted for a proposition that gave small auto dealers access to data in cars, so they could stay in the business of making repairs. It’s just one instance of solidarity in action.



Danielle Allen is the James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard University and is currently on leave as the Director of Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics. She is a political theorist who has published broadly in democratic theory, political sociology, and the history of political thought. Her most recent book is Democracy in the Time of Coronavirus

Danielle has worked tirelessly through her writing, policy work, and political advocacy to advance the causes of freedom and equality, and to lay economic and health foundations on which all can flourish. She is especially proud of her civic education initiative which is supporting teaching and learning in fourteen Massachusetts school districts.

When the COVID crisis hit, Danielle quickly assembled a Rapid Response Network of forty researchers and eight institutions to lay out a policy roadmap, The Roadmap to Pandemic Resilience, and led the development of influential data metrics and tools. Many of the proposals in that Roadmap and in the related work developed have been incorporated in the Biden-Harris Administration Coronavirus Response Plan, and Danielle and her team have offered technical assistance to local leaders at city and county levels throughout the country.

She is a former Chair of the Mellon Foundation Board, past Chair of the Pulitzer Prize Board, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.

You can follow Danielle Allen on Twitter at @dsallentess