Who Knew About Weinstein?
On May 25, 2018, Harvey Weinstein, one of Hollywood’s most powerful and successful producers, was arrested in New York, charged with rape and other offenses. Few months before, in October 2017, the New York Times had published a story detailing almost 30 years of allegations of sexual harassment against Weinstein, and it quickly emerged that he had a long-established reputation for such behaviour in the movie industry. He raped, assaulted and coerced women with seeming impunity for years, surrounded by a thick wall of silence. Although his misdeeds were widely known, it took decades before his global reputation suffered for it. On January 6 his trial started.
How did Weinstein manage his reputation in such a way that he could get away with it without being ostracized by his peers, as theories of reputation would predict? Why do some actors lose reputation so quickly, even with relatively minor infractions, whereas others can get away with comparatively major norm violations? What is the role of gossip, and how do people manage their own reputations? How can sociological theories of gossip and reputation help explain the Weinstein case and other “reputational failures”?
Francesca Giardini is Assistant Professor in Sociology at the University of Groningen (NL). She applies an inter-disciplinary approach and she uses theoretical analysis, agent-based simulation and lab experiments in order to investigate the mechanisms of social sustainability. She is especially interested in identifying the contributions of reputation and gossip to cooperation in different contexts. She is the editor (with R. Wittek) of the Oxford Handbook of Gossip and Reputation Management (2019) and she has published in different disciplinary and inter-disciplinary journals, including PLOS One, Scientific Reports, European Psychologists, Judgement and Decision Making.
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