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Theda Skocpol (born May 4 1947) is an American sociologist and political scientist at Harvard Universitymarker. She served from 2005 to 2007 as Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Influential in sociology as an advocate of the historical-institutional and comparative approaches, and in political science for her "state autonomy theory", Skocpol has written widely for both popular and academic audiences.

In 2007, Skocpol was awarded the Johan Skytte Prize in Political Science, one of the world's most prestigious prizes in political science.[112382]


Skocpol was born in Detroit, Michiganmarker and her undergraduate education was at Michigan State Universitymarker (B.A., 1969). She went on to Harvard (Ph.D., 1976), where she studied with Barrington Moore Jr. In 1979, she published States and Social Revolutions, a comparative analysis of social revolutions in Russiamarker, Francemarker, and Chinamarker. Some of her subsequent work focused on methodology and theory, including the co-edited volume Bringing the State Back In, which heralded a new focus by social scientists on the state as an agent of social and political change.

In the early 1980s, she publicly alleged that Harvard had denied her tenure (1980) because she was a woman, a charge which was found to be justified by an internal review committee in 1981, by which point she was teaching at the University of Chicagomarker. In 1985, Harvard offered her a tenured position (its first ever for a female sociologist), which she accepted.

In more recent years, her work has focused specifically on the United Statesmarker, including the award-winning Protecting Soldiers and Mothers, a historical analysis of the American welfare state. She has also focused on civic engagement, spearheading research charting the history of voluntary associations over the last two centuries. Her 2003 work, Diminished Democracy, seeks to explain the decline of American civic participation in recent decades. In this area, she has differed strongly with her Harvard colleague Robert Putnam and other social capital theorists, in highlighting the role of institutional changes (include state policies) in shaping civic life.

Her works and opinions have been associated with the structuralist school. As one example, she argues that social revolutions can best be explained given their relation with specific structures of agricultural societies and their respective states. She gives equal importance to the role of international forces, especially their influence on state and social structures of a given society. Such an approach differs greatly from more "behaviorist" ones, which tend to emphasize on the role of "revolutionary populations" "revolutionary psychology" and/or "revolutionary consciousness" as determinant factors of revolutionary processes.

Published works

  • A Critical Review of Barrington Moore’s Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy. Politics and Society, 4(1), pp. 1-34
  • States and Social Revolutions: A Comparative Analysis of France, Russia, and China, Cambridge University Press (New York), 1979.
  • Protecting Soldiers and Mothers: The Political Origins of Social Policy in the United States, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press (Cambridge), 1992.
  • Social Revolutions in the Modern World, Cambridge University Press (New York), 1994.
  • State and Party in America's New Deal (with Kenneth Finegold), University of Wisconsin Press (Madison), 1995.
  • Social Policy in the United States: Future Possibilities in Historical Perspective, Princeton University Press (Princeton), 1995.
  • Boomerang: Clinton's Health Security Effort and the Turn Against Government in U.S. Politics, Norton (New York), 1996, new edition with new afterword published as Boomerang: Health Care Reform and the Turn against Government, 1997.
  • The Missing Middle: Working Families and the Future of American Social Policy, Norton, 2000.
  • Diminished Democracy: From Membership to Management in American Civic Life, University of Oklahoma Press, 2003.
  • What a Mighty Power We Can Be: African American Fraternal Groups and the Struggle for Racial Equality, (with Ariane Liazos & Marshall Ganz) Princeton University Press, 2006.


  • Marxist Inquiries: Studies of Labor, Class, and States (with Michael Burawoy), University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1982.
  • Vision and Method in Historical Sociology, Cambridge University Press, 1984.
  • Bringing the State Back In (with Peter B. Evans and Dietrich Rueschemeyer), Cambridge University Press, 1985.
  • The Politics of Social Policy in the United States (with Margaret Weir and Ann Shola Orloff), Princeton University Press, 1988.
  • American Society and Politics: Institutional, Historical, and Theoretical Perspectives (with John L. Campbell), McGraw-Hill (New York), 1995.
  • States, Social Knowledge, and the Origins of Modern Social Policies (with Dietrich Rueschemeyer), Princeton University Press, 1996.
  • The New Majority: Toward a Popular Progressive Politics (with Stan Greenberg), Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1997.
  • Democracy, Revolution, and History (with George Ross, Tony Smith, and Judith Eisenberg Vichniac), Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1998.
  • Civic Engagement in American Democracy (with Morris P. Fiorina), Brookings Institute Press (Washington, DC)/Russell Sage Foundation (New York City), 1999.


  • Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2005. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson Gale. 2005. [112383]
  • The Crimson. "Denied Tenure" 6/5/2005

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