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Kathleen Thelen

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Kathleen Thelen is an American political scientist. She is the Ford of Political Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a permanent external member of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies (MPIfG), and a faculty associate at the Center for European Studies (CES) at Harvard University. She received her B.A. from the University of Kansas before obtaining both an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. [1] She is a leading authority on the origins and evolution of political-economic institutions in the rich democracies.

Thelen completed and published her first book, “Union of Parts”, as an Assistant Professor at Princeton University in 1991. Through an analysis of labor relations in Germany between the 1970s and 1980s, she identified the interaction of centralized bargaining and German work councils as the institutional basis for peaceful, negotiated adjustment in the midst of radical economic and political change.

After moving to Northwestern University in 1994, Thelen wrote a sole-authored article, “Historical Institutionalism in Comparative Politics,” for the Annual Review of Political Science. The article instantly became a classic, and to date scholars have referenced it more than 6,000 times.[2]

In “How Institutions Evolve” (2004), Thelen examines variations in the nineteenth century settlements between employers and skill-intensive workers, artisans, and early trade unions. She finds that the effects of these settlements were incremental, and can only be understood by making sense of specific types of long-run gradual change. For example, she discovered that German Handicraft Protection Law of 1897, originally designed to shore up support among a reactionary artisanal class, was a historical cause of contemporary Germany’s vocational training system. The book co-received the American Political Science Association’s Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award for the best book published in 2004 on government, politics, or international affairs.[3]

Thelen left Northwestern University for MIT in 2009. In 2014, she published her third major substantive book, “Varieties of Liberalization and the New Politics of Social Solidarity.” The book examines contemporary changes in labor market institutions in the United States, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands. While confirming a broad, shared, liberalizing trend, Thelen finds that there are in fact distinct varieties of liberalization associated with very different distributive outcomes. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, her study reveals that the successful defense of the institutions traditionally associated with coordinated capitalism has often been a recipe for increased inequality due to declining coverage and dualization. Conversely, she argues that some forms of labor market liberalization are perfectly compatible with continued high levels of social solidarity and indeed may be necessary to sustain it. The book received prizes from section in both the American Political Science Association (APSA) and the American Sociological Association (ASA).

She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2015 and to the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities in 2009. She has been awarded honorary degrees at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (2013), the London School of Economics (2017), the European University Institute in Florence (2018) and, most recently, the University of Copenhagen (2018[4]).

Thelen was also elected to serve as President of the American Political Science Association (APSA) from 2017 to 2018.

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  • Union of Parts: Labor Politics in Postwar Germany. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991
  • How Institutions Evolve: The Political Economy of Skills in Germany, Britain, the United States and Japan. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004
    • Winner (2006) of the Mattei Dogan Award for best book published in the field of comparative research in 2004/2005
    • Co-winner (2005) of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award of the American Political Science Association for the best book published in 2004 on government, politics, or international affairs.
    • Chinese and Korean translations 2010 (published by Cambridge in collaboration with Shanghai People’s Publishing House and Motivebook Publishing House).
  • Beyond Continuity: Institutional Change in Advanced Political Economies (co-editor with Wolfgang Streeck). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005
  • Explaining Institutional Change: Ambiguity, Agency, and Power (co-editor with James Mahoney). New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010
  • Varieties of Liberalization and the New Politics of Social Solidarity. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014
    • Winner (2015) of the Barrington Moore Book Award of the American Sociological Association, for the “best book in the area of comparative and historical sociology”
    • Co-winner (2015) of the Best Book Award of the American Political Science Association’s Organized Section on European Politics and Society


  1. ^ "Kathleen Thelen's CV" (PDF). Retrieved 2019-02-16.
  2. ^ "Google Scholar". Retrieved 2019-02-16.
  3. ^ James Mahoney. (2017). “Shift Happens: The Historical Institutionalism of Kathleen Thelen“.
  4. ^ Fink-Jensen, Jens (June 9, 2016). "Honorary doctorates". Archived from the original on July 20, 2017. Retrieved August 29, 2019.

External links

This page was last edited on 24 May 2020, at 13:50
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