Even for people who are not political scientists, it might seem intuitive — perhaps obvious — that the political and economic systems in the United States are closely linked.
From battles over the national debt and taxes, to the political implications of unemployment and inflation, to the Election Day influence of campaign donations — even the most casual observer of American democracy can see the prominent influence of money in the competition for power. Who has it, who doesn’t, who needs it, and who gets it.
But even as a body of research has grown in recent years to describe how capitalism affects other wealthy democracies, academics have not focused as much on the precise quality of how these systems interact in the United States.
Now, with grants from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Institution for Social and Policy Studies (ISPS) faculty fellow Jacob Hacker is building a new program within ISPS focused on what he and his colleagues call the American Political Economy (APE).
“This is something Yale will be known for in the way it has become known for introducing experimental methods to the study of political behavior and for developing other now-core aspects of research on American politics,” said Hacker, the Stanley B. Resor Professor of Political Science. “Creating a new framework and agenda for studying the American political economy is the cutting edge of where the discipline is heading. This will be a big part of that.”
The new ISPS APE program at Yale will be the latest Hewlett-supported endeavor related to the Consortium on the American Political Economy (CAPE), led by Hacker; Paul Pierson, the John Gross Professor of Political Science at the University of California at Berkeley; Kathleen Thelen, the Ford Professor of Political Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, associate professor of political science at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. In 2021, they edited the book “The American Political Economy: Politics, Markets, and Power” to create a framework for the discipline.
We spoke with Hacker recently to explain the scope and importance of this work, how he and Yale’s partners are changing the field of political science, and what it means for the future of American democracy.