Paul-Pierson_r
Photo: Dale Robbins

Paul Pierson

Political Scientist

Political scientist Paul Pierson is an expert in American politics and public policy, comparative political economy and social theory.  He is the John Gross Professor of Political Science at the University of California at Berkeley and 2007-2010 chair of the Berkeley political science department.  His 2010 book Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class, co-authored with Yale professor of political science Jacob Hacker, is an examination of economic inequality in the United States and was described as “the clearest explanation yet of the forces that converged over the past three decades or so to undermine the economic well-being of ordinary Americans” by Bob Herbert of the New York Times.

Pierson’s collaborations include The Transformation of American Politics: Activist Government and the Rise of Conservatism (2007), a collection of essays about the growing division in American politics on the role and scope of government co-edited with Theda Skocpol, Harvard professor of government and sociology.  Pierson also co-authored Off Center: The Republican Revolution and the Erosion of American Democracy (2005) with Jacob Hacker, a book about the troubling absence of political consequences during the Republican party’s shift to the right.

Pierson’s other books include Politics in Time: History, Institutions and Social Analysis (1994).  Described as groundbreaking by Pierson’s colleagues, the book notes the importance of history in the study of politics and the social sciences.  Pierson’s first book, Dismantling the Welfare State? Reagan, Thatcher, and the Politics of Retrenchment (1994), based on work from his doctoral dissertation, studies the strategies by the Reagan and Thatcher administrations to shrink the welfare state.  It won the American Political Science Association’s prize for the best book on American national politics in 1995.  Pierson won the 2011 Aaron Wildavsky Enduring Contribution Award and the prize for best article from the American Political Science Association for his article Increasing Returns, Path Dependence and the Study of Politics, published in 2000.   

A frequent commentator in the media, Pierson has published work in the Huffington Post, New York Times Magazine, Washington Post, and The New Republic as well as scholarly journals like Politics and Society, Comparative Political Studies, and Governance. He has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Jean Monnet Fellowship at the European University Institute in Florence and a Russell Sage Foundation Fellowship.  He received his B.A. from Oberlin College and his Ph.D. from Yale.