Ken Roberts

Ken Roberts teaches comparative and Latin America politics, with an emphasis on social movements, the political economy of development, party systems, and political representation. He obtained his Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1992, then taught at the University of New Mexico before joining the faculty at Cornell. He is the author of Deepening Democracy? The Modern Left and Social Movements in Chile and Peru (Stanford University Press, 1998), along with a forthcoming manuscript from Cambridge University Press entitled Changing Course: Parties, Populism, and Political Representation in Latin America’s Neoliberal Era. His research on Latin American populism, electoral volatility, party system change, and the social bases of political representation has been published in a number of scholarly journals, including American Political Science Review, World Politics, Comparative Political Studies, Comparative Politics, Studies in Comparative International Development, Politics and Society, and Latin American Politics and Society. He has conducted research in Chile, Peru, Venezuela, and Argentina, with funding support from Fulbright, MacArthur, Mellon, and National Science Foundation grants.

Roberts’ current research explores social protest against the free market or “neoliberal” economic reforms adopted throughout Latin America over the past two decades. Market reforms were heavily promoted by the U.S. government and international financial institutions like the World Bank and the IMF, and they were widely embraced by technocratic policy making circles within Latin America in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Since 1998, however, a social and political backlash against these reforms has spread across the region, resulting in mass protests that toppled successive presidents in Argentina, Bolivia, and Ecuador, along with the election of populist or leftist presidents in six different countries. Roberts is conducting statistical research on the political and economic correlates of social protest across the region, and also launching a comparative study of the linkages between protest movements and party systems in Argentina, Bolivia, and Ecuador. His research seeks to explain why parties in some contexts operate to co-opt and demobilize protest movements, whereas in other contexts they help connect localized and fragmented expressions of protest, diffuse protest frames and collective action repertoires, and channel protest demands into formal institutional and policy making arenas. Similarly, this research explores how party systems themselves are transformed by social movements and social protest, which may spawn the emergence of new parties or alter the organizational logic and programmatic stances of old ones.

Roberts has taught a broad range of courses on Latin American politics, political economy, and social movements at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. As part of the ISS 2006-2009 theme project on “Contentious Politics: Science, Social Science, and Social Protest,” he developed a new course on contemporary protest movements in Latin America. He is also organized a workshop at Cornell on Latin America’s recent political shift to the Left, as part of a larger collaborate research project on that topic.

203 White Hall