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 and Immediate Past President of the American Political Science Association. 

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 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 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 developed 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 turns to the study of the so-called liberal market economies, with an emphasis on the American political economy.

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

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.

Explaining Institutional Change: Ambiguity, Agency, and Power (co-edited with James Mahoney). New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Beyond Continuity: Institutional Change in Advanced Political Economies (co-edited with Wolfgang Streeck). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

How Institutions Evolve: The Political Economy of Skills in Germany, Britain, the United States and Japan. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

“Varieties of Capitalism: Trajectories of Liberalization and the New Politics of Social Solidarity,” Annual Review of Political Science (2012, available online 2011)

"Institutionalizing Dualism: Complementarities and Change in France and Germany," (co-authored with Bruno Palier), Politics & Society 38: 1 (March 2010), 119-148.

"Economic Regulation and Social Solidarity: Conceptual and Analytic Innovations in the Study of Advanced Capitalism," Socio-Economic Review (October 2009), 1-21.

“The State and Coordinated Capitalism:  Contributions of the Public Sector to Social Solidarity in Post-Industrial Societies,” (co-authored with Cathie Jo Martin), World Politics 60 (October 2007), 1-36.

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.

Political Science Journals Biased Against Women

Dawn Langan Teele and Kathleen Thelen The Washington Post

For our study in PS, we collected information on all articles published by 10 top journals over the past 15 years. The data shows that they publish a lower proportion of articles written by women than there are women in the discipline as a whole.

Biography

Kathleen Thelen is Ford Professor of Political Science at MIT and Immediate Past President of the American Political Science Association. 

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 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 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 developed 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 turns to the study of the so-called liberal market economies, with an emphasis on the American political economy.

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

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.

Explaining Institutional Change: Ambiguity, Agency, and Power (co-edited with James Mahoney). New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Beyond Continuity: Institutional Change in Advanced Political Economies (co-edited with Wolfgang Streeck). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

How Institutions Evolve: The Political Economy of Skills in Germany, Britain, the United States and Japan. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

“Varieties of Capitalism: Trajectories of Liberalization and the New Politics of Social Solidarity,” Annual Review of Political Science (2012, available online 2011)

"Institutionalizing Dualism: Complementarities and Change in France and Germany," (co-authored with Bruno Palier), Politics & Society 38: 1 (March 2010), 119-148.

"Economic Regulation and Social Solidarity: Conceptual and Analytic Innovations in the Study of Advanced Capitalism," Socio-Economic Review (October 2009), 1-21.

“The State and Coordinated Capitalism:  Contributions of the Public Sector to Social Solidarity in Post-Industrial Societies,” (co-authored with Cathie Jo Martin), World Politics 60 (October 2007), 1-36.

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.

Political Science Journals Biased Against Women

Dawn Langan Teele and Kathleen Thelen The Washington Post

For our study in PS, we collected information on all articles published by 10 top journals over the past 15 years. The data shows that they publish a lower proportion of articles written by women than there are women in the discipline as a whole.