Refraction and the Rise of the Strategist



Stephanie Mudge, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Davis

Date and Time

April 15, 2021 11:30 AM - 12:30 PM


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About this Event: There is no shortage of scholarship on the rise of strategic experts—campaign strategists, consultants, and the like—in Western politics. Some accounts treat the rise of the strategist as an effect of the functional demands of party competition, linked with technological change and the accumulation of political data; others see the rise of the strategist as a symptom of a larger process of party decline. In this seminar I'll present a different argument: the rise of the strategist was linked with a turn, especially on the left, toward prioritizing markets over constituents. This argument is built on an "inside-out" (or refraction) analysis that traces the rise and fall of dominant party experts, attending to the link between their social location and their conceptions of the economic world, democratic politics and experts' public roles.  I will conclude by outlining a new project that builds on this work, tentatively titled Strategy and Democracy.


Stephanie MudgeAbout the Speaker: Stephanie Mudge is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Davis and co-editor of a new book series, Cambridge Studies in Historical Sociology. Her recent book, Leftism Reinvented (2018, Harvard University Press), is a cross-national study of how Western parties of the mainstream left shifted from socialism, to Keynesianism, to neoliberalism over the course of the 20th Century. She has published on a range of topics including neoliberalism, the sociology of parties and European technocratic expertise in venues including the Socio-Economic Review, the American Journal of Sociology and the Annual Review of Sociology. She is presently developing projects on the trajectory of "independence" in the case of the European Central Bank and the rise of strategists in American politics.


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