Margaret Levi is a comparative political economist who focuses on what creates productive relationships between governments and citizens, organizations and their members. She is Director of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS) and Professor of Political Science, Stanford University. She is Jere L. Bacharach Professor Emerita of International Studies, Department of Political Science, University of Washington, where she was director of the CHAOS (Comparative Historical Analysis of Organizations and States) Center and formerly the Harry Bridges Chair and Director of the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies. She earned her BA from Bryn Mawr College in 1968 and her PhD from Harvard University in 1974. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. She is a past president of the American Political Science Association. In 2014 she received the William H. Riker Prize for Political Science. Levi and her husband, Robert Kaplan, are avid collectors of Australian Aboriginal art. They have promised or given over 150 pieces of Australian Aboriginal art to major American art museums, including the Seattle Art Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Research Interests

Margaret Levi attempts to understand the conditions under which individuals act beyond their narrow economic interests in situations where logic suggests that self-interest should triumph. In her research on taxation, conscription, unions, state-building, and supply chains, she finds that leadership, trustworthiness, power and norms complement more conventional accounts emphasizing interests and institutions. She has explored her puzzle across multiple countries, cultures and history using analytic narratives. The narrative elucidates the principal players, their preferences, the key decision points and possibilities, and the rules of the game in a textured and sequenced account; the analytic requires evaluation of the model through comparative statics and the testable implications the model generates. Most recently she has investigated what kinds of governance arrangements make it possible to for leaders to successfully ask members to undertake costly actions in the interest of others. The answer lies in the development of an expanded community of fate, in which individuals understand their own well-being as implicated with that of others beyond their narrow circle of family and tribe. Levi's ultimate aim is to develop a better account of what promotes productive relationships between citizens and their governments.

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Primary Section

Section 53: Social and Political Sciences