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Black and White Traffic

Aya Kachi Ph.D.

One step at a time toward a less divided society – In a social science way

Breaking the Binary.

There are many important public policy agendas around us. They emerge as potential solutions to our technological and economic challenges, but many of them become politicized quickly. When severely politicized, even a well-intended policy proposal can become a source of societal conflicts and cleavages in democratic politics. Energy and climate have turned into such policy domains. Firms and interest groups strategically allocate their resources to achieve their policy goals. Voters tend to engage in conversations with others who hold the same opinion. All these perfectly normal activities in a policy process can potentially lead to unintended and irreconcilable societal divides, particularly in a highly politicized environment—an environment in which expressed preferences and ideas tend to be binary. "Whose idea is the right one?—Mine." Can we manage these essential policy processes better than how we do now?

​As an Associate Professor at one of the major research universities in Switzerland, I teach and research these issues. On the one hand, I analyze how people form policy preferences and communicate about them, focusing on the role of various policy-induced costs perceived by the public. On the other hand, I investigate the macro-level policy landscape, analyzing why countries experience different policymaking processes and generate different policies. Here, the role of the state-market relationship and lobbying are the primary focus.


Collective decision-making in the web of information and competing stakes is a daunting task. Nothing is easier than pointing fingers at "the others" and crafting desperate narratives or actions to "cancel them." But it will not solve the source problem; rather, it keeps dividing our society and distracting us from having necessary discussions. That's why I keep asking myself how we can break the binary in our thinking and focus on seeking solutions.

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