Kathleen Thelen

Short CV

Kathleen Thelen is Ford Professor of Political Science at MIT and Permanent External Member of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies. Her research focuses on the origins and impact of political-economic institutions in the rich democracies, with an emphasis on Western Europe and the United States. Her current work situates the American political economy in a broad comparative perspective, exploring the distinctive features that set the United States apart from other rich democracies. A related strand of work focuses on the political economy of the new “knowledge economy,” including the politics of platform capitalism. She has also contributed to the literature on Comparative Historical Analysis and Historical Institutionalism.

Thelen has served as President of the American Political Science Association, as Chair of the Council for European Studies, and as President of the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics (2008–2009). She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2015 and to the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences in 2009. Thelen holds honorary degrees at the Free University of Amsterdam, the London School of Economics, the European University Institute in Florence, and the University of Copenhagen.


Selected Awards

  • 2019, Aaron Wildavsky Enduring Contribution Award of the APSA section on Public Policy for “A Theory of Gradual Institutional Change” (with James Mahoney)
  • 2019, Michael Endres Research Prize conferred by the Hertie School of Governance, Berlin
  • 2015, Barrington Moore Book Award of the American Sociological Association for “the best book in the area of comparative and historical sociology,” for Varieties of Liberalization and the New Politics of Social Solidarity (Cambridge 2014)
  • 2015, Best Book Award (co-winner), European Politics and Society Section of the American Political Science Association, for Varieties of Liberalization and the New Politics of Social Solidarity (Cambridge 2014)
  • 2011, Stanley Hoffmann Award (for the “best English-language article on French Politics published in any peer-reviewed journal over the past two years”), for “Institutionalizing Dualism” with Bruno Palier 
  • 2006, Winner, Mattei Dogan Award for best book published in the field of comparative research in 2004/2005, for How Institutions Evolve
  • 2005, Co-winner, Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award of the American Political Science Association for the best book published in 2004 on government, politics, or international affairs, for How Institutions Evolve

Research Interests

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


Selected Publications

  • American Political Economy: Politics, Markets, and Power (co-edited with Jacob Hacker, Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, and Paul Pierson). New York: Cambridge University Press, 2022.
  • Varieties of Liberalization and the New Politics of Social Solidarity. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
  • Beyond Continuity:  Institutional Change in Advanced Political Economies (co-edited with Wolfgang Streeck). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.
  • How Institutions Evolve: The Poltical Economy of Skills in Germany, Britain, the United States and Japan. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
  • “Institutional Source of Business Power” (co-authored with Marius Busemeyer) World Politics 74: 3 (July 2020), 448–480.
  • “Employer Organization and the Law: American Exceptionalism in Comparative Perspective” Law & Contemporary Problems 83: 2 (2020), 23–48.
  • “Are we all Amazon Primed? Consumers and the Politics of Platform Power” (co-authored with Pepper Culpepper) Comparative Political Studies 53(2)(February 2020), 288–318.
  • “The Rise of the Platform Business Model and the Transformation of Twenty-First Century Capitalism” (co-authored with K. Sabeel Rahman), Politics & Society 47: 2 (June 2019), 177–204.
  • “The American Precariat: US Capitalism in Comparative Perspective,” Perspectives on Politics 17: 1 (March 2019), 5–27 [lead article].
  • “Transitions to the Knowledge Economy in Germany, Sweden, and the Netherlands,” Comparative Politics (January 2019), 295-315.
  • “Regulating Uber: The Politics of the Platform Economy in Europe and the United States,” Perspectives on Politics 16: 4 (December 2018).