daily californian logo


Apply to The Daily Californian by September 8th!

UC Berkeley launches political economy research center with Hewlett Foundation grant

article image



We're an independent student-run newspaper, and need your support to maintain our coverage.

FEBRUARY 27, 2023

UC Berkeley is establishing a new research center called the Berkeley Economy and Society Initiative, or BESI, according to a press release from the campus Social Science Matrix.

The initiative will focus on four major themes of research: climate change, the digital economy, inequality and the relationship between capitalism and democracy, according to Paul Pierson, John Gross professor of political science and inaugural director of BESI.

With a $10 million grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, said Brian Kettenring, director of the economy and society initiative at the foundation, the money from the grant will go towards funding both graduate student and faculty research, as well as programs such as seminars, workshops, and conferences BESI plans on creating.

“When the Hewlett Foundation announced that they were launching a major philanthropic initiative in this area a group of faculty from political science, sociology and law began working to figure out how Berkeley might benefit from the Foundation’s efforts,” Pierson said in an email. “Two years of discussions concerning our shared interests led up to the proposal we made to the Hewlett Foundation last fall.”

Steven Vogel, a professor of political science and political economy who contributed to the original proposal to the Hewlett Foundation,  said there is an increasing recognition that an “interdisciplinary perspective” is needed to be able to tackle the issues in the research in which BESI plans on conducting.

According to Pierson, there are many faculty members who will be involved with BESI, but a few faculty have been crucial in the major development of the research center and will be key members going forward. They include Vogel, professors Neil Fligstein and Marion Fourcade from the sociology department and professor Jonas Meckling from the environmental science, policy and management department.

“This is part of a larger initiative which has (led) to the creation of 15 new political economy centers around the world, including in Mexico. Colombia, Egypt, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and India, in addition to the United States.” Kettenring said in an email.

Kettenring noted that BESI is one of six new research centers in the U.S. that the foundation is funding. Others are based at Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, Howard University, Columbia University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

He also said that Berkeley’s already established and extensive political economy network, which will be able to support BESI, had contributed to the Hewlett Foundation’s excitement towards funding the center.

“Berkeley has world-class faculty and students in political economy across many departments and schools. BESI will connect faculty and students across these units in collaborative research programs, and give them the resources they need.” Vogel said in an email. “It will also connect Berkeley faculty and students with others in government, industry, and academia across the US and the world.”

Contact Lucía Umeki-Martínez at 


FEBRUARY 27, 2023