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James Q. Wilson (born May 27, 1931, in Denvermarker, Coloradomarker) is an American academic political scientist and an authority on public administration. He is a professor and senior fellow at the Clough Center for the Study of Constitutional Democracy at Boston Collegemarker.


Wilson completed his B.A. at the University of Redlandsmarker in 1952, where he was the national collegiate debate champion in 1951 and 1952. He completed an M.A. (1957) and a Ph.D. (1959) in political science at the University of Chicagomarker. From 1961 to 1987, he was the Shattuck Professor of Government at Harvard Universitymarker. From 1987 until 1997, he was the James Collins Professor of Management and Public Policy at the UCLA Anderson School of Management at UCLAmarker. From 1998 to 2008, he was the Ronald Reagan Professor of Public Policy at Pepperdine Universitymarker. He is currently the Clough Senior Fellow at the Clough Center for the Study of Constitutional Democracy at Boston Collegemarker and a professor in BC’s department of political science.

Wilson's university text American Government (now coauthored with John J. DiIulio, Jr.) is the best selling text of its kind today.

Political and business positions

Wilson is a former chairman of the White House Task Force on Crime (1966), of the National Advisor Commission on Drug Abuse Prevention (1972-73) and a member of the Attorney General's Task Force on Violent Crime (1981), the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (1985-90), and the President's Council on Bioethics. He is a former president of the American Political Science Association. He has served on the board of directors for the New England Electric System (now National Grid USA), Protection One, RAND, and State Farm Mutual Insurance.

He is the chairman of the Council of Academic Advisors of the American Enterprise Institute. Wilson is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciencesmarker and the American Philosophical Societymarker, and a member of the International Council of the New York-based Human Rights Foundation.

Political views

Wilson describes himself as "more conservative than most academics but more liberal than the country as a whole."

As a young professor, he "voted for John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey and worked in the latter's presidential campaign".



  • Understanding America: The Anatomy of an Exceptional Nation (2008, ed. with Peter Schuck)
  • American Government, 10th ed. (2006, with John J. DiIulio, Jr.)
  • The Marriage Problem: How Our Culture Damages Families (2002)
  • Moral Judgment (1997)
  • The Moral Sense (1993)
  • On Character: Essays by James Q. Wilson (1991)
  • Bureaucracy (1989)
  • Crime and Human Nature (1985, with Richard Herrnstein)
  • Watching Fishes: Life and Behavior on Coral Reefs (1985, with Roberta Wilson)
  • Thinking About Crime (1975)
  • The Investigators (1978)
  • Political Organizations (1973)
  • Varieties of Police Behavior (1968)
  • The Amateur Democrat (1966)
  • City Politics (1963, with Edward C. Banfield)
  • Negro Politics (1960)


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