Our Mission

Insights derived from political economy – the analysis of the interplay of markets and government informed by a broad historical and comparative perspective – will be vital for addressing global challenges such as climate change, new and disruptive technologies, and democratic instability. In a world still haunted by free-market economics and its moral ghosts, intellectual innovation is urgently needed to confront multiplying policy stalemates.

The Berkeley Economy and Society Initiative (BESI) advances just such innovation by revitalizing the core insights of a political economic approach. In order to foster path-breaking developments across diverse fields of study BESI is committed to intellectual pluralism and the promotion of dialogue and research that combines the  expertise and perspectives of multiple disciplines. We encourage work that takes power – the capacity to generate or block social change – seriously. Our focus is on the production of usable knowledge, geared toward securing wider, sustainable prosperity. 

uc berkeley campanile

Our focus is on the production of usable knowledge, geared toward securing wider, sustainable prosperity. 

BESI serves as an interdisciplinary forum for research across UC Berkeley. Participants are based in a wide range of departments and programs, including political science, sociology, economics, history, law, public policy, geography, and environmental and data science. BESI sponsors innovative faculty and graduate student research, convenes event series and international conferences, and enhances the training of the next generation of scholars through the Designated Emphasis in Political Economy, a new minor field option for students across Berkeley’s PhD programs. 

BESI Research Clusters

At the heart of BESI’s work are its three clusters of faculty and graduate students focusing on areas of substantive significance and local intellectual strength:

Each cluster has a program lead and core group of faculty and graduate students who oversee cluster-specific programming, seed grants, and research exchange. More information on leadership and projects can be found on individual cluster pages.