Professor Lawrence King

Professor of Sociology and Political Economy at Department of Sociology, University of Cambridge

Professor of Sociology and Political Economy, University of Cambridge

Lawrence King’s brand of political economy stems from the continental and institutionalist traditions, especially the classical work of Weber, Polanyi, Veblen and C.Wright Mills. Rather than seeking universal laws of political and economic phenomena, this tradition seeks knowledge of the universe of historical and comparative cases in order to generate causal accounts that are bound by historical contexts.

Professor King utilizes multiple methods in a question-driven research process. These include traditional comparative-historical methods, in-depth interviews, surveys, cross-national and time-series quantitative methods, industrial organization techniques (market-structure research), and power-structure research (utilizing network and content analysis).

For most of his career, he has published on the interaction of economic and political forces, as well as the collective actors and organizations (like classes, status groups, corporations and policy networks) that shape the economic and political terrain. Part of his published work in comparative political economy has been on the socio-economics of the transition to capitalism in Eastern Europe – focusing on privatization and foreign investment. He has recently extended this research stream with a large-scale big-data investigation into corruption in public procurement in the EU (Digital Whistleblower or DigiWhist).

In addition to the study of the political economy of postcommunism, Professor King has an active research agenda on the political economy of public health around the world. This project has as its goal the bringing together of the type of variables, analyses and methods used in political economy with public health research. Part of this project is the investigation of the public health outcomes of various political and economic processes, including macro- and micro-economic policy.

He is currently carrying out a large-scale multi-level survey to investigate the relationship between radical privatization programs and the postcommunist mortality crisis (PrivMort). The other part of this project involves studying the political, economic and social determinants of rules governing the allocation of health resources at the national and international level. He has also published on and continues to research the global governance of public health, with an international power structure analysis of the budgeting process of the World Health Organization. He is also currently studying the political, social and economic forces related to the innovation, pricing, and reimbursement of Sovaldi, a revolutionary but highly expensive drug for Hepatitis C.

Finally, he has a deep research interest in the political economy of the less developed countries, especially Africa. As part of this project, he is investigating the impact of IMF conditionality on public health and other developmental outcomes. His team is analysing a unique data set of all IMF conditions from 1986 to 2014. In addition to economic development, he is interested in state violence and political mobilization, and (in collaboration with a student) he has investigated the social determinants of the Maoist insurgency in India.