Skip to main content

Northwestern Buffett Institute for Global Affairs


Northwestern Buffett is committed to amplifying scholarship and thought leadership focused on the most pressing global challenges of our time. Learn more about our Digital Publications below.

Oil Color on Canvas Painting titled “Adbar No.3/አድባር ቁ.3” by Mezgebu Tesema, Width 3 m, Height 1.50 m.

Between Failure and Redemption:  The Future of the Ethiopian Social Contract

The contemporary Ethiopian state is, without question, facing enormous challenges, including the militarization of state and non-state actors, high population density accompanied by youth unemployment, food insecurity, real and perceived inequality and discrimination among ethnic groups, ethnic and political polarization and widespread human rights abuses. At the core of the issues faced by Ethiopia lies the state-building process by which major constituencies and elite groups were either alienated from, or coopted into, ruling structures. Unable to derive political legitimacy from democratic participation, successive governments largely relied on coercion and neopatrimonialism, modulated by constitutional narratives and reform efforts including those of the imperial regime’s attempts to regulate government functions by a written constitution, the Derg’s land law reforms and the abolition of the gabar system, and the EPRDF’s recognition and promotion of linguistic and cultural rights. Despite initially promising political, legal, and institutional reform initiatives undertaken by the incumbent regime, Ethiopians remain divided in their views about what kind of constitutional structure has the greatest potential to unify the country without compromising diversity.


City, Public Value, and Capitalism

City, Public Value, and Capitalism: New Urban Visions and Public Strategies discusses how cities that have developed through the successive stages of capitalism should transform themselves when adapting to the conditions of the contemporary global age. Since modern times, the capitalist economy has largely defined society, politics, and environment—this has caused the collapse of communities, the crisis of democracy, and serious environmental problems. Cities have a responsibility to overcome such problems and pave the way for a healthy global future. This book highlights various aspects of the urban initiatives and movements that are emerging in different parts of the world. It shows how they are rooted in new insights into “public value” that go beyond the one-dimensional view of economic affluence, and are instrumental to the restoration of humanity. How to develop a city that creates “public value” while utilizing new technologies is one of the biggest challenges faced by contemporary civilization, and this book sets the direction for future solutions to such a challenging endeavor. 


Nuclear Disaster Compensation: A Call for Action

Nuclear energy provides 10 percent of electricity worldwide, a percentage that is likely to increase as nation states work to fuel growing economies while limiting the devastating environmental effects of carbon-based energy sources. Yet, on the tenth anniversary of Japan's devastating earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear accident, we are reminded that nuclear energy imposes unique risks and burdens on citizens. Across three major disasters—Three Mile Island in 1979, Chernobyl in 1986, and Fukushima in 2011—those affected by nuclear reactor meltdowns have been forced to navigate complicated administrative and legal processes in an attempt to rebuild their lives and communities. Taxpayers and ratepayers, meanwhile, have borne many of the financial burdens of these disasters. These are important issues that deserve to be addressed in a more intentional way, but often recede into the background given the rarity of nuclear accidents and stigma attached to planning for them. This report shows that current compensation plans have not met the needs of nuclear disaster victims, and calls for a more inclusive process for making nuclear energy decisions that gives ordinary citizens a seat at the table.


Living With Plagues: New Narratives for a World in Distress

Day by day it becomes increasingly clear that COVID-19 will have wrought lasting changes in our common sense understandings of “how the world works” and “our place in it.” All attempts to project how society, politics, and economic life might evolve must begin with our efforts, as singularities, embedded in linguistic and social-political communities, to formulate in words our experiences – plural – of the pandemic, and of the hopes and fears those experiences have generated. The Buffett Institute, with the French Interdisciplinary Group, has inaugurated, in collaboration with Northwestern’s partner university, the École Normale Supérieure of Paris, France, a cross-border, cross-disciplinary, cross-cultural, and cross-generational exchange of experiences, of thoughts about those experiences, and of theoretical exploration of those thoughts, as expressed by present and past doctoral students and faculty of the two institutions.