Recognized since the beginning of her career as a major presence in the fields of historical sociology and comparative politics, Theda Skocpol has shown that she cannot be contained within any single, closely defined area of expertise. At Harvard, she serves both as the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology and as director of the Center for American Political Studies. Past president of the Social Science History Association, she also served as president of the American Political Science Association, becoming, in the process, the only APSA president whose degrees are not in political science.
Her academic positions and awards speak to her immense energy, her wide scope of research, and her groundbreaking formulations. Her first book, States and Social Revolutions: A Comparative Analysis of France, Russia, and China (1979), changed the way revolutions are studied by defining what states do and why they “break.” That book won both the C. Wright Mills Award and the American Sociological Association Award for a Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship. Her groundbreaking Protecting Soldiers and Mothers recast the history of American social provision, and was recognized with a number of important scholarly awards, including the APSA’s 1993 Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award for the best book published in the United States on government, politics or international affairs.
Skocpol’s recent books include Boomerang: Clinton’s Health Reform and the Turn Against Government (1997), The Missing Middle: Working Families and the Future of American Social Policy (2000), and Diminished Democracy: From Membership to Management in American Civic Life (2003).
Active not only as a scholar and teacher but in the “real world” as well, Skocpol participated in policy discussions during the Clinton administration. She is committed to enhancing public understanding of complex issues, appearing frequently on radio and television, and writing for publications appealing to the general public.
Skocpol is currently involved in a research project on civic engagement in America, considering the rise and development of voluntary associations from 1790 to the present.