Cass Sunstein breaks down how social tipping points become political movements

Is change possible? Are there ways to make change happen? In a far-ranging “Salon Talks” episode Cass Sunstein, Harvard law professor and former Obama appointee, discussed Sunstein’s new book, [“How Change Happens.”](

Sunstein explores the way social movements get started, and how what used to be considered common sense or standard can sometimes change with surprising speed. How did smoking become such a marginal habit? How did the #MeToo movement change people’s expectations around gender and work? How did wearing a seatbelt become the social norm?

Sunstein is a big advocate for using what he calls “nudges” to affect social change without depriving people of their freedom. Ideally, these are non-manipulative, such as phone reminders or signs posted in high traffic areas, gently and transparently nudging people to make better choices in life.

But as Sunstein discusses with SalonTV’s Amanda Marcotte, there are areas where private companies, especially social media companies like Facebook, are using oblique methods to manipulate customers into behaving in ways that may be harmful for users. Sunstein suggests these are exactly the kinds of situations where more forceful regulation would be welcome, to protect people.

Agree or disagree with Sunstein, but his ideas on change should stimulate discussion with activists and policy makers who are looking for better and more productive ways to affect change in the world. Watch the full episode above to learn more about Sunstein’s take on the measles outbreak and the story behind #MeToo.

About “Salon Talks”

Hosted by Salon journalists, “Salon Talks” episodes offer a fresh take on the long-form interview format, and a much-needed break from the partisan political talking heads that have come to dominate the genre. “Salon Talks” is a destination for information through conversation. Viewers can expect discussions with A-list actors, artists, authors, thinkers, and newsmakers as we explore the full range of the human condition. The show streams live on Facebook and Twitter and each episode is published in full on

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