Academics and Research / Magazine Feature

Rhodes named University Lecturer

Comparative labor market governance, wage bargaining systems, welfare states, social pacts — to most these words almost seem a different language. But to Professor Martin Rhodes, it is the language of comparative political economy — a language in which he is fluent.

A prolific researcher and writer, Rhodes thrives on the challenge of observing and analyzing the politics of economic policy across the globe.

“Martin is one of the preeminent comparative political economists, especially in research on Europe,” says George DeMartino, professor and co-director of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies’ global, finance, trade and economic integration master’s program. “If you were to ask people, particularly in Europe, ‘Who are the top comparative political economists?’ Martin would be on their top-five list.”

Rhodes grew up in New Zealand, did graduate work in Oxford and Paris, and then worked in the United Kingdom for 10 years and in Italy for 12 years before coming to DU in 2006. He
is a professor of comparative political economy and co-director of Korbel’s PhD program.

So what exactly is comparative political economy?

“It is looking at how different kinds of institutions and government systems affect the way economies are organized,” Rhodes explains. “It examines the structure of economies — the relationships between governments and banks, companies, workers, trade unions and stock markets.

“It’s also about outcomes. Why did different countries devote different amounts of resources to particular public policies and with what results? High or low employment rates? Availability of health care?”

“It’s very challenging to explain and understand this stuff,” Rhodes admits.

But his ability to study, interpret, write and teach on challenging subjects is no doubt why he was named the University Lecturer at DU’s 2010 Convocation. The award recognizes “superlative creative and scholarly work.”

Rhodes is best known for his research on Europe. “My focus has been on the evolution of ‘welfare states’ (social assistance, pensions, healthcare, employment policies). I also focus on reform and the way European countries and the European Union try to alter public policies and their outcomes via novel institutional mechanisms.”

DeMartino says Rhodes coordinated and built one of the largest research networks across Europe from 2004–08, moving forward research on political and economic governance across the EU. He’s garnered millions of dollars in research funding and has put together teams of experts to collaborate in cutting-edge research on how European countries are responding to economic integration and globalization.

“My background helps me a lot in giving American students a global perspective,” Rhodes says. “We discuss how the United States contrasts substantially with European countries on issues like health care, employment and social security policies.”

Rhodes has authored, co-authored or edited more than 20 books and 120 book and journal articles. And he was the co-editor and co-founder of South European Society and Politics (1995–99) and co-editor of European Political Science (1999–2007). His next co-authored book, Social Pacts in Europe: Emergence, Evolution and Institutionalization (to be released in 2011), analyzes “social pacts.”

“These are economy-wide agreements,” Rhodes explains. “Imagine if the U.S. federal government and the largest American employers and trade union organizations sat around a table to work out social and economic policy priorities. That’s how social pacts have helped numerous EU countries respond to the challenges of economic integration and globalization.”

Rhodes seems to thrive on studying the mix of variables that explain public policy outcomes and drive different forms of economic governance. “It’s fun to do work involving lots of different countries. It’s challenging, and I’d rather do that than specialize on one country or policy issue,” he says. “There’s a lot of stimulation to finding out how different countries function.”

“He substantially strengthens the training we are able to give students in the areas of political economy, European studies and comparativism,” says DeMartino, noting that comparative research methodologies — something in which Rhodes is an expert — are key to an international studies education.

“Looking at two or more countries is a very fruitful way to research,” DeMartino continues. “Martin’s areas of expertise help students examine prosperity, economic and political variables, employment, equality and growth. He helps them make sense of divergent trajectories, especially in the area of economic globalization.”


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