Alexander Hertel-Fernandez — 2019 Robert A. Dahl Award Recipient

The American Political Science Association (APSA) will present the Robert A. Dahl Award to Dr. Alexander Hertel-Fernandez at the 2019 APSA Annual Meeting & Exhibition, the world’s largest gathering of political scientists and source for emerging scholarship in the discipline.  The $750 award recognizes an untenured academic who has produced scholarship of the highest quality on democracy.

Alexander Hertel-Fernandez is an assistant professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University, where he studies American political economy, with a focus on the politics of business, labor, wealthy donors, and policy.  His most recent book, State Capture, examines how networks of conservative activists, right-leaning donors, and businesses built organizations to successfully reshape public policy across the states and why progressives failed in similar efforts.  His previous book, Politics at Work, examines how employers are increasingly recruiting their workers into politics to change elections and policy.  He has published his research in leading peer-reviewed journals in political science and policy, as well as in the American Prospect, Democracy Journal, the Harvard Business Review, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Vox, among other outlets.  He received his PhD in government and social policy from Harvard University and is currently a visiting scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation.

Here is what the Award Committee had to say about their decision:

We are delighted to present the 2019 Robert A. Dahl Award to Alexander Hertel-Fernandez for his book, Politics at Work: How Companies Turn Their Workers into Lobbyists [Oxford University Press (Studies in Postwar American Political Development), 2018]. In Politics at Work, Hertel-Fernandez examines how American employers seek to mobilize their workers in support of policies and candidates, taking over from the declining labor movement unions’ traditional role in political recruitment.  Although scholars of comparative politics have studied how business executives mobilize workers to vote and rally for favorite candidates in Russia, Indonesia, and Algeria, few have analyzed such recruitment tactics in the United States, where corporate influence is usually seen as working through lobbying and campaign contributions.  Drawing on surveys of workers, corporate managers, and congressional staff, as well as interviews, Hertel-Fernandez argues that power asymmetries between managers and workers enable the former to recruit the latter for their companies’ political aims.  Indeed, this mobilization works most effectively in highly asymmetrical workplaces, where workers are fearful of job loss or wage/hour cuts, and when they believe their managers have the ability to monitor their political views and to retaliate against them.  Employee mobilization constitutes yet another form of coercion deriving from what Dahl himself identified as the hierarchies of corporate capitalism, and to which Dahl and Hertel-Fernandez alike propose workplace democracy as a partial remedy.  Accessibly written and powerfully argued, Politics at Work merits a wide public audience.