Paul Kenny — 2018 Robert A. Dahl Award Recipient

The American Political Science Association (APSA) will present the Robert A. Dahl Award to Dr. Paul Kenny at the 2018 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.

Paul Kenny is a comparative political economist. He joined the Australian National University in 2013 and is currently a Fellow and Head of the Department of Political and Social Change. He was previously Assistant Professor of Political Science (Visiting) at Trinity College Dublin (2012-13) and received his PhD in political science from Yale University in 2013.

At the broadest level, his research is concerned with the economic origins of political order and behavior. He has written on several topics in this area, including most prominently populism, corruption, and immigration. His first book, Populism and Patronage: Why Populists Win Elections in India, Asia, and Beyond (Oxford University Press, 2017) demonstrates a causal link between the disruption of political patronage networks and the electoral success of populist candidates. A second short book, Populism in Southeast Asia (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming), examines the political economy of populism in the region, while his current book project, The Populists: From Antiquity to the Age of Trump extends his work on populism across democratic history. His research has previously been published or is forthcoming in the British Journal of Political Science and The Journal of Politics among other journals.

He lives in Canberra with his wife and two sons.

Given the widespread concerns about the fate of democracy across the globe, the Award Committee believes that a dual award is warranted.  Two of the submissions make contributions to the subject of democracy that are not only exceptional, but uniquely exceptional, in very different ways.  The first is Populism and Patronage: Why Populists Win Elections in India, Asia, and Beyond by Paul D. Kenny.  The second is Democracy Against Domination by K. Sabeel Rahman.

Kenny’s book makes major contributions to our knowledge of populism and democracy, proposing an original institutionally-anchored theory about how populism emerges in patronage-oriented regimes. It demonstrates this argument using a range of archival evidence focused on India and Asia.  It then tests the theory with quantitative evidence from 92 countries. Throughout, Kenny’s book is attentive to the dangers that populism poses for democracy.

The two books offer superbly-researched analyses of the different challenges that confront contemporary democracies.  Kenny’s work provides a new analytic approach to understanding populism — and the dangers it poses to democracy – in patronage democracies.  Rahman offers a deeply-grounded blend of institutional, normative, and prescriptive analysis that directs our attention to how American democracy can be revitalized.