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USC Berggruen Fellow

Dornsife Dean's Office Faculty Los Angeles, California

The Berggruen Institute seeks to encourage a deeper understanding of the great political, economic, social, and cultural transformations that are reshaping the human condition, in order to better inform practical responses. It organizes and supports inquiries that bring multicultural and interdisciplinary knowledge to questions of governance, of philosophy and culture, and of global restructuring including especially the role of China. 

To this end, USC Dornsife Center on Science, Technology and Public Life (CSTPL) and the Berggruen Institute (BI) will sponsor up to ten (10) fellowships at the University of Southern California for the academic year 2020-21.

The selected USC Berggruen Fellows will work on projects under the Institute’s programmatic areas to study the Great Transformations: Future of Capitalism, Globalization and Geopolitics, Transformations of the Human, and the Future of Democracy. The description on each project is below.


Capitalism has conquered the world, creating a dynamic system for enabling capital, ideas and people to work together. While the current model of capitalism has generated unprecedented wealth, it has failed to address environmental and distributional challenges. The Future of Capitalism program seeks to envision new models and mechanisms for managing and legitimating market economies.


Predistribution / Universal Basic Assets

The rapid privatization of wealth generating assets in the late-twentieth century has created almost historically unprecedented economic inequality that can no longer deliver sustainable growth. Moreover, it is impossible to go back to the old “welfare” state that assumed services could be financed and delivered only through re-distribution. This impasse requires us to develop a new model of wealth ownership, not to eliminate privately owned wealth, but to supplant it with the mutual wealth in a way that arms citizens with a set of endowments that allows them to have more negotiating leverage with private power. The Berggruen Institute’s Universal Basic Assets program explores ways to equip individuals with universal access to an asset base that is mutually administered and distributes benefits to its stakeholders.

The New Political Economy

The 2008 financial crisis has demonstrated that the globalization of financial systems has made sovereignty far weaker than leaders would sometimes like to believe.  These leaders and publics have been faced with a contradictory set of phenomena, on one hand an expectation of a multi-polar world and, on the other, the increasing inability of individual governments to exercise control over their economies. The Berggruen Institute’s “New Political Economy” explores innovative proposals for how leaders of national, supranational and subnational polities can best respond to and reshape globalized capitalism in three core areas: the relationship between internationalized money and finance and national sovereignty; the institutional changes and financialization of wealth and its impact on monetary and fiscal policy tools; and ways of coordinating national and supranational development and trade policy.


Globalization is both an accomplished fact and in deep crisis in the face of climate change, growing inequality, elite self-dealing, and populist backlash. The Berggruen Institute seeks to reimagine how counties governments, technologists, and global thinkers canharness globalization so that it is capable of addressing the challenges faced by both advanced and emerging countries in an interdependent, but fragmenting world.


Thriving in a Transactional International Order

Critiques and defenses of the so-called Liberal International Order are now commonplace in Western academic and policy thought. In practice, the post-WWII global institutional order was never all that liberal, and has been in decline for decades. The essence of today’s geopolitical challenge is how to promote economic and political freedoms in a world characterized by weak institutions and a broadly and increasingly transactional approach to international politics. Looking past unproductive and nostalgic calls for 'restoring' a legacy system, the Berggruen Institute seeks to build a forward-looking model that focuses on liberal outcomes without relying on the revival of anachronistic institutions. This project aims both to provide a new theory for scholars to think about the 21st international system, and decision makers with a roadmap for effectively advancing liberal ends.

Promoting US-China Dialogue on Global Risks

U.S.-China relations are extensive, even pervasive, across industrial sectors and along the diplomatic, economic and strategic domains. The Berggruen Institute seeks to improve mutual understanding between the United States and China about security risks, safety concerns, and potential cooperation opportunities with respect topics of global concern such as climate chance, international security, and technological risk. The ultimate goal is to articulate new approaches to risk management, including the development of shared norms, that can inform formal diplomacy and strategic dialogue between these countries.

Scales of Governance

Since the end of World War II, the nation-state has become the hegemonic actor in the delivery of governance. ‘Politics’ is conceived primarily as the contestation for power in the national capital, and global affairs are above all seen as being about the interaction of these different nation-states. This has alas led to various deformations, ranging from a persistent inability to adequately govern ‘intrinsically global’ issues like migration, technological risk, climate change, or financial flows, as well as a strong sense of ‘democratic deficit’ in many countries who feel their national political elites are out of touch with their concerns. The Berggruen Institute therefore seeks to reimagine the scales at which different functional aspects of governance are delivered, including both the creation of new mechanisms for addressing intrinsically global phenomena and the delegation down of other governance services to localities and municipalities that are in closer touch with their stakeholders.


The Transformations of the Human program is designed as a philosophical study and artistic exploration of the manifold ways in which AI and biotech challenge these established ways of thinking about ourselves as Human. 


ToftH has two major project streams –– one concerned with AI, AI & the Human; the other with contemporary biotechnologies, Biotech & the Human, (HNT – Human, Nature, Technology). In both streams we place philosophers and artists in labs and companies, where their task is to make visible that AI and biotech are much more than technical fields: They are philosophical laboratories for reformulating what it means to be human. From the perspective of ToftH, the contemporary disruption of the human by AI and biotech is a chance to invent a whole new concept of the human, one adequate to the present, to our knowledge and our technical possibilities.

Our ambition is to feed our findings back into the production of both artificial intelligence and Biotech so that these technologies can live up to their philosophical –– and human –– stakes, and to thereby contribute to both human and non-human flourishing.


Powerful non-state actors and hyper-connected networks are operating with deterministic effect beyond the reach of governments. The emergence of a large, unregulated digital commons is providing new tools for manipulation and propaganda by nefarious forces hostile to democratic values. The customized media marketplace, combined with the hostile dialogue on which social media thrives, is robbing societies of a shared narrative and is deepening political divisions. The Future of Democracy program designs resilient systems and institutions adapted to a changing society in order to preserve liberal democracy.


Social Cohesion and the Public Square

Social cohesion is a pre-political project. In order to be a healthy, well-functioning society, a sense of belonging, mutual reciprocity, and shared destiny must exist among members. There must be a common belief that efforts to achieve long term goals will be enhanced by cooperation and perhaps healthy competition in the short term. In many ways, modernity is proving hostile to social cohesion.  Many democratic societies are challenged by a series of crises which have been poorly managed by their governments leaving people afraid and resentful. This fear and resentment have left their polities fragmented and politically polarized. These divisions are exacerbated by the unregulated digital commons which has put the tools for highly targeted yet mass manipulation in the hands of malign actors. The hyper-partisan, toxic political dialogue in the digital public square is corrupting our capacity to recognize our accountability to each other. The Social Cohesion and Public Square project seeks to develop policy recommendations to help build resilient communities by connecting people and forging common purpose.

Renovating Institutions

We are witnessing a historic rupture of the institutional relationship between the governing and the governed in liberal democracy. This disaffection with and distrust in governing institutions has gained more traction than ever before because of the participatory power of peer-driven social media, which levels the playing field of information among amateurs, professionals, and meritocratic experts. As a platform open to all, social networks challenge the custodianship of elites and, not least, the legitimacy of representative democracy. This rise of social networks heralds a new distribution of power that is a gamechanger for governance. The political form this powershift takes, which is becoming widely seen as an alternative, is a demand by disaffected constituencies to make the big decisions themselves through the direct democracy of referendums and citizen’s initiatives at the ballot box. The Renovating Institutions project seeks to design new institutions capable of balancing new participatory forms with deliberative capacity in order to make governance possible.

Digital Governance Through Social Credit System

Big data and digital economy are changing the ways social economic programs are managed and citizens are governed globally. These technology-driven changes may take different forms in different social, political, and cultural environments. Even though governments and businesses around the world have taken a variety of measures to respond to this challenge, credit crisis is still ongoing due to the complexity in regulating the behaviors of credit subjects. China has released initiatives to develop an all-encompassing social credit system with the aim to build trust in government services, commercial sphere, social sphere, and judicial and law-enforcement credibility. It should be emphasized that governing through big data and social monitoring is an issue faced globally not only China. This project aims to do case studies on current social credit systems to fully understand the complexity of the issue, investigate the divergences and convergences in this development, and come up with implications and recommendations for future domestic governance systems. 

USC Berggruen Fellows can be either academics or unattached intellectuals (for whom the Berggruen Fellowship may serve as a retreat from work in industry, government, or the arts) but above all must be committed to intellectual work of the highest quality. Applicants should have a terminal degree or commensurate research expertise in the appropriate field of study.

In addition to well-qualified individuals with independent projects, we also seek teams of scholars eager to come to the Berggruen Institute to work together on a shared project or theme. We are especially eager to support teams that include diverse or unusual institutional, professional, disciplinary and national backgrounds. Those applying as a team should each apply individually, and indicate that they would like to have their application considered in conjunction with the other scholars on their team.

USC Berggruen Fellows will work from the Berggruen Institute’s office in Downtown Los Angeles, and will have access to the scholarly resources of the University of Southern California. They will also participate in BI-organized working groups focused on their particular area of the Great Transformations.

The term of the fellowship is flexible, from three months to up to two years. Stipend is commensurate with qualifications. For a full-year fellowship, Fellows with academic appointments will receive a stipend based on half of their annual academic year salary, up to $75,000 with the expectation that their home institution will make up the remainder. Fellows without sabbatical half-salary or a similar particle remuneration package can be paid up to $90,000 or more, depending on position and seniority. Fellows will be provided with $3,000 in research funds. Fellows from outside the Los Angeles area will be offered housing assistance and relocation subsidy.

Founded in 2010, Berggruen Institute’s mission is to develop new ideas for shaping social and political institutions in the current era of Great Transformations. We study these transformations not only by looking at how new technologies are remaking the world, but also by considering cultural and religious shifts, upheavals in politics and efforts to reform governance, changes to the structures of economic organization, and environmental change. And we consider the scales of changes at everything from the level of human beings themselves; to social groups and other forms of collective identity; to human interaction on a planetary scale. Since its inception, the Berggruen Institute has launched the 21st Century Council, the Council for the Future of Europe, Berggruen China Center, the Think Long Committee for California, and the signature Berggruen Prize.

To Apply

In order to apply to become a USC Berggruen Fellow, all candidates must apply via the "Apply" link at the top or bottom of this page.  

Please upload the following materials:

I. Full curriculum vitae

II. Project Statement

Your project statement, up to 750 words, should answer two questions:

Question #1:  How do you propose to contribute to one of the Projects listed above?

Concisely describe the work you plan to do during your fellowship years:

  • Explain the intellectual agenda of your proposal and the ways it can contribute to the Project of your choice?
  • Address the public dimensions: How will your contribution “make a difference”? How would you propose to raise public awareness of the Project?

For individuals applying as part of a team, please describe both the overall project, as well as what you anticipate your unique contribution will be to the work.

Question #2:  What is your most important work to date?

Identify your most important book, book chapter, or article and explain why it was important—how it corrected a misconception in the literature, how it advanced thinking in some important way, and/or how it filled in an important gap in knowledge.

III. Two reference letters

At least one letter should be from an expert in your area of interest.

IV. Writing sample

Please provide the link to one short writing sample, such as an article, essay, or book chapter.

The application deadline is January 6, 2020. Awardees will receive notification of their fellowships by April 1, 2020.

Questions about the logistics of applying should be addressed to April Miller at For other questions pertaining to the details of the Berggruen Institute’s work, please contact Jennifer Bourne at

USC is an equal opportunity, affirmative action employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, protected veteran status, disability, or any other characteristic protected by law or USC policy. USC will consider for employment all qualified applicants with criminal histories in a manner consistent with the requirements of the Los Angeles Fair Chance Initiative for Hiring ordinance.

REQ20083338 Posted Date: 11/18/2019
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