Straus FEllow

Academic Year 2013-2014

Desmond King

Desmond King has held the Andrew W Mellon Professor of American Government at the University of Oxford since 2002 where is also a Fellow of Nuffield College. Before taking up this position he was Professor of Politics and Official Fellow at St John’s College, Oxford and held lectureships at the London School of Economics and Political Science and at the University of Edinburgh (1984-88). He was born in Dublin, Ireland, took a First in Political and Social Sciences from Trinity College, University Dublin (1979) and MA (1981) and PhD (1985) degrees in political science from Northwestern University. He has held a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship (2005-08) and a British Academy Research Readership (2000-02). He is a Fellow of the British Academy in 2003. His research – published in nine books and 5 coedited volumes as well as articles - covers race and American political development, comparative welfare and labour market policy, and political economy. His books include (with Randall Hansen) Sterilized by the State: Eugenics, Race and the Population Scare in North America (Cambridge UP, 2013), (with Rogers M Smith) Still A House Divided: Race and Politics in Obama’s America (Princeton UP, 2011), Separate and Unequal: African Americans and the US Federal Government (Oxford Up 2007), (coedited with Larry Jacobs) The Unsustainable American State (Oxford UP 2009), and Making Americans: Race, Immigration and the Origin of the Diverse Democracy (Harvard UP, 2002).


The American State, Executive Politics and Racial Inequality since 1940

My research project covers several strands integrated around the theme of the American State’s presence in US executive politics and the role of the federal government in addressing and/or ignoring enduring material racial inequalities. On the first my research examines how the American State is in principle a key resource for the modern presidency but often fails to result in anticipated policy outcomes. This characteristic produces a presidential style of dramatic policy announcements – necessitated by a range of factors from routine to crisis politics – which often lack policy efficacy despite the formidable expansion of executive power and bureaucratic resources. Case studies include the War on Poverty, welfare reform, and anti-unemployment measures. The second strand of research centers on the question of why over fifty years after the civil rights revolution of the 1960s material racial inequalities remain high and largely unaddressed by the American State; this work includes collaborative writing with Rogers M Smith of the University of Pennsylvania. A third theme is the nature of the American State itself as a comparative political institution, with my research concentrating on the political economy and institutional configuration of the Federal Reserve, undertaken in a collaborative project with Lawrence Jacobs, University of Minnesota.