Theda Skocpol

skocpol.theda's picture

Director of the Scholars Strategy Network and Co-Director of the Boston SSN Regional Network; Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology, Harvard University

Knafel 416, CGIS
1737 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138
(617) 496-0966

Expertise & Civic Involvements

Skocpol’s research focuses on health reform, social policy, and civic engagement amidst the shifting inequalities in American democracy. Current projects include tracking the implementation of health reform in the U.S. states; analyzing the dynamics of local Tea Party groups; and probing how the Democratic Party has handled – and mishandled – political battles over taxes and public revenues. Skocpol speaks regularly to community groups and writes for blogs and public-interest magazines. She has met with groups of Congressional Democrats and attended White House sessions that included the president during the Clinton years.

SSN Briefs

Key Publications

  • "Asymmetric Interest Group Mobilization and Party Coalitions in U.S. Tax Politics" (with Alexander Hertel-Fernandez). Studies in American Political Development (2015).
    Identifies the mechanisms that have propelled tax resistance in contemporary U.S. politics, and our analysis contributes to theoretical understandings of the ways in which political parties are influenced by policy feedbacks and by coalitions of policy-driven organized economic interests.
  • "Naming the Problem: What It Will Take to Counter Extremism and Engage Americans in the Fight against Global Warming," Rockefeller Family Fund, January, 2013.
    Dissects the 111th Congress' failure to pass "cap and trade" legislation and suggests actions for environmental advocates that will improve the chances of passing such legislation in the future.
  • The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism (with Vanessa Williamson) (Oxford University Press, 2012).
    Shows how grassroots activism, the right-wing media, and elite funders and policy advocates interact to allow the Tea Party to boost the GOP and prod it to the hard right. Includes interviews with grass roots activists and an analysis of the role of the Tea Party in the 2010 and 2012 elections.
  • Reaching for a New Deal: Ambitious Governance, Economic Meltdown, and Polarized Politics in Obama’s First Two Years (with Lawrence R. Jacobs) (Russell Sage Foundation, 2011).
    Offers an overview of the policy successes and failures of the early Obama presidency – and explains why, despite many reform accomplishments, Obama and the Democrats have faced uphill political battles, right-wing obstruction, and popular disillusionment.
  • Health Care Reform and American Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Lawrence R. Jacobs) (Oxford University Press, 2010).
    Traces how the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010 and explains why this health reform will benefit the vast majority of Americans. Looks at ongoing political controversies over repeal and implementation.
  • Civic Engagement in American Democracy: From Membership to Management in American Civic Life (University of Oklahoma Press, 2003).
    Looks at civic voluntarism from the American Revolution through the late twentieth century, showing that Americans once organized membership associations that involved dues-paying members across class lines and linked local groups to state and national politics. After the 1960s, membership associations declined while professionally led organizations proliferated, leaving many ordinary citizens on the outside looking in.
  • The Missing Middle: Working Families and the Future of American Social Policy (Norton, 2000).
    Successful social programs in U.S. democracy bridge the needs and values of the middle class and the less privileged. Citizens get support in return for making contributions to the nation. Explains why this formula for popular and effective social programs has fallen apart in recent decades, and considers how it might be revived.

Media Contributions

Talks and Briefings