For 2017-18 and 2018-19, the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics will take “Political Economy and Justice” as its leading theme. Our work in areas such as diversity, justice, and democracy; bioethics; and institutional corruption will also continue. But for the next two years, we will concentrate a significant portion of our fellowships, resources, and energy around the theme of Political Economy and Justice.

To this end, we invite applications for our Fellows-in-Residence program. We expect to award 8-10 fellowships.

While most admitted fellows will work on the theme, we also expect to admit some applicants whose work does not directly relate to the theme; such applicants can apply for an “open” fellowship. In addition, please note that in 2016, the Edmond J. Safra Center inaugurated a partnership with the Berggruen Institute's Philosophy and Culture Center, whose goal is “to develop fresh ideas through comparative and interdisciplinary work and to relate these insights to the pressing issues of our day.” A subset of our fellows will be designated as Edmond J. Safra-Berggruen Fellows. Edmond J. Safra-Berggruen Fellows engage in scholarship of broad social and political importance from cross-cultural perspectives, and demonstrate a commitment to the public dissemination of their ideas. Priority for holding a Berggruen Fellowship at the Edmond J. Safra Center will be given to scholars working in the following areas: equality and hierarchy; democracy and meritocracy; neuroscience, culture, morality; sustainable innovation; diversity, justice, and democracy; political economy and justice. Berggruen Fellows have the distinctive opportunity to take up a second fellowship year at a university in Asia.

For specifics about the application process, please see the Details section at the bottom of this page.


Almost no one any longer defends “unregulated capitalism.” But what passed for communism has been tried and has failed; Europe has largely backed away from at least one vision of “socialism” as a model; and in the U.S. there is high frustration with government regulation even as there is high frustration with economic and political arrangements that have worked poorly for lower and middle income Americans over recent decades. Where is political economy to go, and how do decisions about political economy intersect with understandings of justice, legitimacy, human flourishing, ethics, and moral commitments?

Capitalism is not a “single-level system” consisting merely of property rights and markets but a “multi-level” system of economic governance involving economic markets that are embedded in institutions created and governed by political authority, accountable to political markets, resting on social norms, and instantiating specific values. Most public firms are hierarchical organizations with carefully structured decision rights and autocratic tendencies (stemming from espoused goals related to wealth maximization and related capital market and product-market performance metrics). As pressing as ever is the question of how principles of legitimacy and justice, of rights, liberties, and a just distribution of resources, can best be served through structured hierarchies of decision-makers set up to serve, primarily, capital market and product market constituencies. Can answers be found along this path?  

At the same time, views under the general heading of “socialism” are attracting renewed interest from philosophers and the general public. Despite the collapse of the Soviet Union and the ideological development of China, socialist views are implemented in many versions around the world. Some philosophers have argued that much further-reaching versions than are currently implemented are both institutionally possible and even required to bring about true human flourishing. Others have argued that the cultural penetration of capitalism is the root cause of many social evils from terrorism to widespread loneliness in mass-societies. How should we assess these arguments? How do they relate to efforts to re-imagine capitalism or a mixed economy?

Because of the widespread sense that economic problems are connected to political problems, the issues of political economy and justice are also closely connected to the topic of democracy, as both a theoretical and practical question.  With sharp divisions about what ought to be done—compare Trump supporters with Sanders supporters in the U.S.; Leavers to Remainers in the Brexit vote and so on—politics can look intractable, and current trends are ugly and dangerous in many ways. 

Merely recognizing these facts does not answer the questions of whither political economy nor of how to define justice and legitimacy in relation to economic questions. Sustained, hard-hitting, multi-disciplinary conversation is necessary.

We expect that serious conversations about the intersections of political economy and justice, will take up issues of human flourishing, ethics, and moral commitments; of democracy, system governance, and legitimacy; of corporate governance and legitimacy; of alienation and consumerism; of labor and quality of life; of social, political, and economic equality and opportunity; of inclusion and sustainability; of globalization, cosmopolitanism, and tribalism. We do not begin with a pre-conceived view about whether solutions lie in capitalism, socialism, or a mixed economy. We seek proposals that address any of these broad topics or others that we have not considered. We seek scholars and practitioners, philosophers and political theorists, economists and decision-makers, and many more besides. We seek a diversity of viewpoints. Our goal will be to craft a conversation that will help us deepen our collective understanding of political economy and human well-being.


Residency and Requirements: The one-year fellowship term runs the course of the academic year, typically from the beginning of September through the end of May. All Fellows-in-Residence will be expected to devote the majority of their time to their individual projects and to participate in regular work-in-progress seminars as well as attending public lectures. In addition, Fellows whose work intersects most directly with the annual theme will also be encouraged to participate in further thematic components of the Center’s programming, which will consist of additional conferences and workshops.

Eligibility: We invite a broad range of researchers to submit proposals to become residential Fellows. We accept applications from untenured and tenured faculty, as well as post-doctoral applications and proposals from researchers and practitioners in industry, government, or NGOs seeking sabbatical time to pursue research directly relevant to ethical issues. Applicants from any discipline or professional field will be considered. Each applicant should propose an individual research and/or writing project. Applicants must have a PhD, professional degree, or a minimum of 5 years of equivalent professional experience. The Fellowships are open to all regardless of citizenship. Those who have previously held a year-long residential Fellowship at the Center are not eligible; this limitation does not apply to former undergraduate or former graduate fellows. If you have questions about your eligibility, contact us at applications@ethics.harvard.edu before beginning the application process.

How to Apply

1. Submit the following as a single PDF file via email to applications@ethics.harvard.edu:

  • Letter describing the intersection of your work with the theme and/or with issues in ethics generally (approximately 500 words)
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Research Proposal for the project you would undertake (approximately 1,000 words)
  • Sample of previous work. This can be a scholarly paper or chapter; a think-tank white paper; policy memos; journalistic writing; or a portfolio documenting a major work product-- in English, preferably written, published, or produced within the past two years
  • The names of two references, which should also be entered in the online form below.

2. In addition to the above materials, please complete and submit this online form.

Deadline: The deadline date for receipt of applications for projects beginning September 2017 is December 1, 2016.

Stipend: Post-doctoral fellows will be paid according to a salary structure that is based on number of years of postdoctoral experience ranging from $42,000 to $53,000. Faculty members based in the U.S. who will spend their sabbatical year at the Center will be eligible to receive up to one-half of their academic year salary (not exceeding a maximum stipend set each fall) for the fellowship period. Their home institution is expected to provide at least half the salary, plus all benefits. The maximum for the 2017-18 year is $75,000. Overseas fellows and those not on an academic track are eligible for stipends depending on circumstance. 

All fellowship applicants are expected to report pending or received funding from other sources. If multiple awards are received, an equitable arrangement will be made among the funding agents.

Please note the following:
 We are not able to pre-screen applications, project ideas, or issues of eligibility. Please read the materials available on our website to determine if this fellowship is a good fit for you and your scholarship.
Incomplete or hard copy applications will not be considered.

Questions? Email us at applications@ethics.harvard.edu.