New Faculty 2009-10
Mark Blyth Professor of Political Science

Mark Blyth
Professor of Political Science

By Deborah Baum  |  September 9, 2009  |  Email to a friend

A specialist in international political economy, Mark Blyth focuses his research on the twin issues of uncertainty and randomness.

“People cope with uncertainty by developing locally adaptive ideas about the world and how to act in it, which gives us the variance in outcomes we see in what seem to be materially similar environments,” he said. “My work is based in how agents use particular ideas — economic, political, or social ideas, ideologies, theories, cognitive maps and the like — to construct and reconstruct their ways of interacting in and with their world.”

In his book, Great Transformations: Economic Ideas and Institutional Change in the Twentieth Century (Cambridge University Press, 2002), Blyth analyzes how economic ideas informed political and economic change in 20th century Sweden and the United States. In this work and others, he examines the critical role economic ideas played in making institutional change possible. In doing so, he asks us to rethink the relationship between environmental uncertainty, agents’ ideas, and our supposedly ‘material’ interests.

A native of Scotland, Blyth received his B.A. from Strathclyde University in 1990 and a Ph.D. in political science from Columbia University in 1999. He has taught in the department of political science at The Johns Hopkins University since 1997 and recently served as director of the International Studies Program. He has also held visiting professorships in France, Denmark, Germany, and the United Kingdom. He is currently serving on The Warwick Commission on International Financial Reform.

Blyth’s publications have appeared in academic journals including The American Political Science Review, Perspectives on Politics, Comparative Politics, and World Politics. He recently completed several joint projects, including volumes on institutional change in American city school districts, constructivist theory and political economy, and a survey of the field of international political economy around the world. He is currently at work on a book project, titled The End of the (Liberal) World?, that asks if liberalism, the cognitive and normative underpinning of Western capitalism, can survive the 21st century.

The recipient of several teaching awards while at Hopkins, Blyth says he takes undergraduate teaching very seriously, which is one reason he’s looking forward to Brown. “Everyone says that Brown has the best students there are. If that’s true, this is going to be a lot of fun.”