Theda Skocpol, Daniel Carpenter land prestigious political science awards

Portraits of Professor Carpenter and Professor Skocpol standing

Daniel Carpenter and Theda Skocpol will deliver speeches linked to their prizes in September. Photos by Rose Lincoln/Harvard file photo and Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer

3 min read

Two Harvard professors have won prestigious awards from the American Political Science Association.

Theda Skocpol, Ph.D. ’75, the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology, was selected for the 2023 James Madison Award, a triennial honor recognizing a lifetime of distinguished scholarly contributions to the field of political science. “I understand it’s probably the highest career award the association gives,” said Skocpol, who has been involved with the APSA for decades and served as its president from 2001 to 2003. “I was very pleased and honored.”

Daniel Carpenter, the Allie S. Freed Professor of Government and Chair of the Department of Government in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, was selected for the annual John Gaus Award. Named for a professor at Harvard during the mid 20th century, the prize recognizes exemplary scholarship in the joint traditions of political science and public administration. “It’s a special pleasure getting an award named for somebody who had a vast impact on public policy, public administration, the institutions of our democracy, and who also taught here in the Government Department,” Carpenter said.

Both awards will be presented at the APSA Annual Meeting in September, where Skocpol and Carpenter will deliver lectures linked to their prizes.

James Madison Award honorees typically touch upon themes Madison raised in debates at the 1787 Constitutional Convention, Skocpol explained. Her talk will address whether U.S. institutions can withstand Trumpism. “What makes us susceptible? What makes us resilient? I’ve done research on a whole series of topics that speak to this,” she said.

A sociologist by training, Skocpol’s research has focused since the 1990s on comparative and American politics. The long-time professor, who has taught at Harvard for some four decades, previously won an APSA award for the 1992 book “Protecting Soldiers and Mothers: The Political Origins of Social Policy in the United States.” She co-edited the 2020 book “Upending American Politics: Polarizing Parties, Ideological Elites, and Citizen Activists from the Tea Party to the Anti-Trump Resistance.” Next up is “Rust Belt Union Blues: Why Working-Class Voters Are Turning Away from the Democratic Party,” due in September, which Skocpol co-authored.

In his speech, Carpenter plans to touch on the history and conception of administrative office while pushing for further scholarship on the subject. “Most of the critical functions of government in many modern regimes, but especially in the United States, are entrusted to offices,” Carpenter noted. “But we haven’t studied them as rigorously as we should have.”

Carpenter, who joined the Harvard faculty in 2002, has focused his research recently on the role of petitioning. He won two APSA awards for the 2021 book “Democracy by Petition: Popular Politics in Transformation, 1790-1870” and another for the 2014 journal article “When Canvassers Became Activists: Antislavery Petitioning and the Political Mobilization of American Women.” His previous scholarship dug into government organizations and regulation, with the 2001 book “Reputation and Power: Organizational Image and Pharmaceutical Regulation at the FDA” also recognized by the APSA.