Kathleen Thelen

Kathleen Thelen

Ford Professor of Political Science

CV (pdf)

Political economy; historical institutionalism; labor politics; social policy; advanced industrial countries.

Biography

Kathleen Thelen is Ford Professor of Political Science at MIT.

Her work focuses on the origins and evolution of political-economic institutions in the rich democracies. She is the author, among others, of Varieties of Liberalization and the New Politics of Social Solidarity (2014) and How Institutions Evolve (2004), and co-editor of Advances in Comparative Historical Analysis (with James Mahoney, 2015), and Beyond Continuity (with Wolfgang Streeck, 2005). Her awards include the Aaron Wildavsky Enduring Contribution Prize (2019); the Michael Endres Research Prize (2019), the Barrington Moore Book Prize (2015), the Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award of the APSR (2005), the Mattei Dogan Award for Comparative Research (2006), and the Max Planck Research Award (2003). She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2015 and to the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences in 2009. She was awarded honorary degrees at the Free University of Amsterdam (2013), the London School of Economics (2017), the European University Institute in Florence (2018), and the University of Copenhagen (2018).

Thelen has served as President of the American Political Science Association (APSA), Chair of the Council for European Studies and as President of the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics. Thelen is General Editor, along with Eric Wibbels, of the Cambridge University Press Series in Comparative Politics, and a permanent external member of the Max Planck Institut für Gesellschaftsforschung in Cologne, Germany.

Research

Thelen studies the origins, development, and effects of institutional arrangements that define distinctive "varieties of capitalism" across the rich democracies. Her work uses cross-national comparison and over-time analysis to identify the political-coalitional foundations on which different models of capitalism are founded, and to explain divergent trajectories of institutional development. Thelen’s most recent book, Varieties of Liberalization: The New Politics of Social Solidarity (Cambridge University Press 2014) examines trends in industrial relations, education and training, and labor market policy across five countries (Germany, Denmark, the United States, Sweden and the Netherlands). This book received the Barrington Moore Best Book Award of the ASA’s Section on Comparative and Historical Research. Her previous book, How Institutions Evolve: The Political Economy of Skills in Germany, Britain, the United States and Japan (Cambridge 2004), was selected as winner of the 2006 Mattei Dogan Award of the Society for Comparative Research and co-winner of the 2005 Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award of the APSA. While her past research focused especially on the “coordinated market economies” of northern Europe, Thelen’s current work focuses on the study of the American political economy in comparative perspective.

Thelen is also a prominent contributor to the literature on institutions and institutional change. Her most recent work in this field is Advances in Comparative Historical Analysis (co-edited with James Mahoney, Cambridge 2015). Two previous volumes, Explaining Institutional Change (Cambridge 2010, with James Mahoney) and Beyond Continuity (Oxford 2005, with Wolfgang Streeck) critique dominant punctuated equilibrium models of change and provide an alternative historical-institutional framework for explaining modes of political change that are incremental but cumulatively transformative.  This work was honored with the Aaron Wildavsky Enduring Contribution Award in 2019.

Thelen is also a prominent contributor to the literature on institutions and institutional change. Her most recent work in this field is Advances in Comparative Historical Analysis (co-edited with James Mahoney, Cambridge 2015). Two previous volumes, Explaining Institutional Change (Cambridge 2010, with James Mahoney) and Beyond Continuity (Oxford 2005, with Wolfgang Streeck) critique dominant punctuated equilibrium models of change and provide an alternative historical-institutional framework for explaining modes of political change that are incremental but cumulatively transformative.

Recent Publications

“Are we all Amazon Primed?  Consumers and the Politics of Platform Power” (co-authored with Pepper Culpepper) Comparative Political Studies (online June 2019).

“The Rise of the Platform Business Model and the Transformation of Twenty-First Century Capitalism” (co-authored with K. Sabeel Rahman), Politics & Society (June 2019).

“The American Precariat: US Capitalism in Comparative Perspective,” Perspectives on Politics 17: 1 (March 2019).

“Transitions to the Knowledge Economy in Germany, Sweden, and the Netherlands,” Comparative Politics (January 2019).

“Regulating Uber:  The Politics of the Platform Economy in Europe and the United States,” Perspectives on Politics 16: 4 (December 2018).

“Diverging Solidarity:  Labor Strategies in the New Knowledge Economy,” (with Christian Lyhne Ibsen). World Politics 69: 3 (June 2017), 409-447 [lead article].

 “Gender in the Journals,” (co-authored with Dawn Teele). PS: Political Science and Politics, April 2017.

 “Change without Reform, Reform without Change: The Hidden Faces of Institutional and Policy Transformation,” (co-authored with Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson) in James Mahoney and Kathleen Thelen, eds., Advances in Comparative Historical Analysis (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015).

Advances in Comparative Historical Analysis (co-edited with James Mahoney).  New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

Varieties of Liberalization: The New Politics of Social Solidarity.  New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

Teaching

17.154 Varieties of Capitalism and Social Inequality
17. 561 European Politics
17.150 American Political Economy in Comparative Perspective
17.951 Institutionalism and Institutional Change
17.156 Welfare and Capitalism in Western Europe

News

Work of the future and the future of work for women in political science

Leda Zimmerman MIT Political Science

After a 30-year career focused on the economic institutions of wealthy democracies, Kathleen Thelen, Ford Professor of Political Science, has recently begun carving out time from her globe-hopping schedule to pursue compelling opportunities closer to home.

Uber a 'shared shock' around the world that created a perfect experiment

Mary Beth Faller, ASU Now ASU Now

The ride-sharing platform Uber burst onto the scene a few years ago, creating a “shared shock” in several countries at about the same time with its disruptive practices. And that makes it the perfect natural experiment. “For a comparative political scientist like me who likes to study how things work across different countries, Uber is a wonderful case because it spread quickly across the globe,” said Kathleen Thelen, the Ford Professor of Political Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Biography

Kathleen Thelen is Ford Professor of Political Science at MIT.

Her work focuses on the origins and evolution of political-economic institutions in the rich democracies. She is the author, among others, of Varieties of Liberalization and the New Politics of Social Solidarity (2014) and How Institutions Evolve (2004), and co-editor of Advances in Comparative Historical Analysis (with James Mahoney, 2015), and Beyond Continuity (with Wolfgang Streeck, 2005). Her awards include the Aaron Wildavsky Enduring Contribution Prize (2019); the Michael Endres Research Prize (2019), the Barrington Moore Book Prize (2015), the Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award of the APSR (2005), the Mattei Dogan Award for Comparative Research (2006), and the Max Planck Research Award (2003). She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2015 and to the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences in 2009. She was awarded honorary degrees at the Free University of Amsterdam (2013), the London School of Economics (2017), the European University Institute in Florence (2018), and the University of Copenhagen (2018).

Thelen has served as President of the American Political Science Association (APSA), Chair of the Council for European Studies and as President of the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics. Thelen is General Editor, along with Eric Wibbels, of the Cambridge University Press Series in Comparative Politics, and a permanent external member of the Max Planck Institut für Gesellschaftsforschung in Cologne, Germany.

Research

Thelen studies the origins, development, and effects of institutional arrangements that define distinctive "varieties of capitalism" across the rich democracies. Her work uses cross-national comparison and over-time analysis to identify the political-coalitional foundations on which different models of capitalism are founded, and to explain divergent trajectories of institutional development. Thelen’s most recent book, Varieties of Liberalization: The New Politics of Social Solidarity (Cambridge University Press 2014) examines trends in industrial relations, education and training, and labor market policy across five countries (Germany, Denmark, the United States, Sweden and the Netherlands). This book received the Barrington Moore Best Book Award of the ASA’s Section on Comparative and Historical Research. Her previous book, How Institutions Evolve: The Political Economy of Skills in Germany, Britain, the United States and Japan (Cambridge 2004), was selected as winner of the 2006 Mattei Dogan Award of the Society for Comparative Research and co-winner of the 2005 Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award of the APSA. While her past research focused especially on the “coordinated market economies” of northern Europe, Thelen’s current work focuses on the study of the American political economy in comparative perspective.

Thelen is also a prominent contributor to the literature on institutions and institutional change. Her most recent work in this field is Advances in Comparative Historical Analysis (co-edited with James Mahoney, Cambridge 2015). Two previous volumes, Explaining Institutional Change (Cambridge 2010, with James Mahoney) and Beyond Continuity (Oxford 2005, with Wolfgang Streeck) critique dominant punctuated equilibrium models of change and provide an alternative historical-institutional framework for explaining modes of political change that are incremental but cumulatively transformative.  This work was honored with the Aaron Wildavsky Enduring Contribution Award in 2019.

Thelen is also a prominent contributor to the literature on institutions and institutional change. Her most recent work in this field is Advances in Comparative Historical Analysis (co-edited with James Mahoney, Cambridge 2015). Two previous volumes, Explaining Institutional Change (Cambridge 2010, with James Mahoney) and Beyond Continuity (Oxford 2005, with Wolfgang Streeck) critique dominant punctuated equilibrium models of change and provide an alternative historical-institutional framework for explaining modes of political change that are incremental but cumulatively transformative.

Recent Publications

“Are we all Amazon Primed?  Consumers and the Politics of Platform Power” (co-authored with Pepper Culpepper) Comparative Political Studies (online June 2019).

“The Rise of the Platform Business Model and the Transformation of Twenty-First Century Capitalism” (co-authored with K. Sabeel Rahman), Politics & Society (June 2019).

“The American Precariat: US Capitalism in Comparative Perspective,” Perspectives on Politics 17: 1 (March 2019).

“Transitions to the Knowledge Economy in Germany, Sweden, and the Netherlands,” Comparative Politics (January 2019).

“Regulating Uber:  The Politics of the Platform Economy in Europe and the United States,” Perspectives on Politics 16: 4 (December 2018).

“Diverging Solidarity:  Labor Strategies in the New Knowledge Economy,” (with Christian Lyhne Ibsen). World Politics 69: 3 (June 2017), 409-447 [lead article].

 “Gender in the Journals,” (co-authored with Dawn Teele). PS: Political Science and Politics, April 2017.

 “Change without Reform, Reform without Change: The Hidden Faces of Institutional and Policy Transformation,” (co-authored with Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson) in James Mahoney and Kathleen Thelen, eds., Advances in Comparative Historical Analysis (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015).

Advances in Comparative Historical Analysis (co-edited with James Mahoney).  New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

Varieties of Liberalization: The New Politics of Social Solidarity.  New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

Teaching

17.154 Varieties of Capitalism and Social Inequality
17. 561 European Politics
17.150 American Political Economy in Comparative Perspective
17.951 Institutionalism and Institutional Change
17.156 Welfare and Capitalism in Western Europe

News

Work of the future and the future of work for women in political science

Leda Zimmerman MIT Political Science

After a 30-year career focused on the economic institutions of wealthy democracies, Kathleen Thelen, Ford Professor of Political Science, has recently begun carving out time from her globe-hopping schedule to pursue compelling opportunities closer to home.

Uber a 'shared shock' around the world that created a perfect experiment

Mary Beth Faller, ASU Now ASU Now

The ride-sharing platform Uber burst onto the scene a few years ago, creating a “shared shock” in several countries at about the same time with its disruptive practices. And that makes it the perfect natural experiment. “For a comparative political scientist like me who likes to study how things work across different countries, Uber is a wonderful case because it spread quickly across the globe,” said Kathleen Thelen, the Ford Professor of Political Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.