Steven M. Teles

Professor of Political Science, Johns Hopkins University
Areas of Expertise:

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About Steven

Teles’ central interest is in the interaction of public policy and processes of organizational genesis and change. How do movements create new kinds of organizations, how do funding processes influence the kinds of organizations that are created, how do those organizations take (and change) positions, and how do all these actions eventually influence what government actually does? He attacks these larger theoretical questions by talking directly with political activists and funders (among others), and digging into organizational papers. He has written for a number of popular publications, but his most important civic involvement today is as an editorial board member of The Washington Monthly, where he also contributes most of his non-academic writing. He also gives talks to Federalist Society chapters on a fairly regular basis, which gives him a chance to meet conservatives across the country and, he hopes, build some bridges to them.


How Unlikely Allies Can Roll Back America's Prison Boom

  • David Dagan

No Jargon Podcast

In the News

"How Conservatives Won the Law," Steven M. Teles, Interview with Jason Willick, The Wall Street Journal, July 20, 2018.
Steven M. Teles quoted by Peter Baker, "A Conservative Court Push Decades in the Making, With Effects for Decades to Come" The New York Times, July 9, 2018.
Steven M. Teles's research on housing policy discussed by Alex Verkhivker, "Housing Is The Real Culprit For America's Inequality," Forbes, June 4, 2018.
"The Power Line Show, Ep. 66: The Telos of Teles," Steven M. Teles, Interview with Steven Hayward, Powerline Blog, April 16, 2018.
Steven M. Teles quoted by Young Voices Advocates, "Free Market Cures for Wage Stagnation" Townhall, April 6, 2018.
on NPR: Planet Money, Steven M. Teles (with Brink Lindsey), March 9, 2018.
Steven M. Teles quoted by Jonathan Band, "Captured Copyright Law", January 18, 2018.
Steven M. Teles's research on income inequality discussed by Steven Pearlstein, "What’s to Blame for Slower Growth and Rising Inequality?," The Washington Post, November 22, 2017.
"Trump Made the Swamp Worse. Here’s How to Drain It.," Steven M. Teles (with Brink Lindsey), New York Times, October 26, 2017.
"Even the Intellectual Left is Drawn to Conspiracy Theories about the Right. Resist Them.," Steven M. Teles (with Henry Farrell), Vox, July 14, 2017.
Steven M. Teles quoted on philanthropies and public policy by Daniel W. Drezner, "The Tricky Thing about Studying the Politics of Philanthropy" Washington Post , July 26, 2016.
Interview on GOP support for prison reform Steven M. Teles, The Atlantic, July 19, 2016.
Guest to discuss transpartisanship of criminal justice reform on The Federalist Radio Hour, Steven M. Teles, July 11, 2016.
Steven M. Teles quoted on funding programs that would replace mass incarceration by Leon Neyfakh, "A Koch and a Smile" Slate, February 19, 2015.
Steven M. Teles quoted on mass incarceration by Elena Weissman, "Scholars Debate Incarceration" Brown Daily Herald, November 13, 2014.
"Is America a ‘Kludgeocracy’?," Steven M. Teles, Interview with Ezra Klein, Washington Post, January 26, 2013.
"Philanthropy in a Time of Polarization," Steven M. Teles (with Heather Hurlburt and Mark Schmitt), Stanford Social Innovation Review, Summer 2014.


"Locked In? Conservative Reform and the Future of Mass Incarceration" The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 651, no. 1 (2014): 266-276.
Argues that mass incarceration, long subject to self-entrenching effects, may be entering a cycle in which it undermines itself. Finds that, in order to seriously shrink the prison population, conservatives will have to accept the construction of alternative government structures; liberals will have to accept that these will remain more paternalistic than they might like.
"The Elusive Craft of Advocacy Evaluation" (with Mark Schmitt). Stanford Social Innovation Review (2011).
Examines the challenges of evaluating foundation investments in advocacy, questions the applicability of linear models of change, and proposes ways for philanthropists to assess long-term efforts at political and social change.
"Transformative Bureaucracy: Reagan’s Lawyers and the Dynamics of Political Investment" Studies in American Political Development 23, no. 1 (2009): 61-83.
Offers an historical study of the Reagan Justice Department which shows the conditions under which political appointees can “invest” in the future success of an allied political movement.
Conservatism and American Political Development (edited with Brian Glenn) (Oxford University Press, 2009).
Explores how conservatism changed the course of American political development, but was in the process changed itself. Organized around cases of the environment, Social Security, and K-12 education.
"The Rise of the Conservative Legal Movement " (Princeton University Press, 2008).
Shows how the conservative legal movement arose in reaction to legal liberalism, and how through a long, slow process of puzzling and trial and error, developed an impressive network of organizations in the law. Built upon a completely original collection of conservative internal organizational papers and exclusive interviews.