Thomas J. Biersteker

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Thomas J. Biersteker is an American political scientist and a notable constructivism scholar. He became the first Curt Gasteyger Professor of International Security at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID) in Geneva, Switzerland in 2007.[1] He is an active member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Social Science Research Council and is on the Editorial Board of Stability: International Journal of Security and Development.[2][3] His more recent work included advising the United Nations’ Secretariat and the governments of Switzerland, Sweden and Germany on the design of targeted sanctions.[4]


Biersteker received a PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Political Science in February 1977, from where he had received an M.S. in February 1975. His A.B. degree was from the University of Chicago, Public Affairs Program in June 1972. His PhD dissertation won the 1978 Helen Dwight Reid Award from the American Political Science Association for best dissertation in International Relations.[5]


Prior to the Graduate Institute he was the Olive C. Watson Professor of International Studies at the Watson Institute for International Studies, and earlier the Henry R. Luce Professor of Transnational Organizations in the Department of Political Science at Brown University, from 1992-2006.[6] He was a professor at the School of International Relations, University of Southern California from 1985–1992, where he was founder and Director of the Center for International Studies. He was an associate professor in the Department of Political Science at Yale University, where he taught from 1976-1985.


Biersteker's research interests focus on governance, the history of international relations, international political economy, sanctions, international organizations, diplomacy, peacekeeping, state-building and terrorism. He has written or co-authored a dozen scholarly books, including Countering the Financing of Global Terrorism with Sue Eckert (New York and London: Routledge Publishers, ISBN 978-0-415-39643-1, 2007), The Emergence of Private Authority in Global Governance with Rodney B. Hall (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), Argument without End: In Search of Answers to the Vietnam Tragedy with Robert S. McNamara, James G. Blight, Robert K. Brigham, and Col. Herbert Y. Schandler (New York: PublicAffairs Press, 1999)[7], State Sovereignty As Social Construct, with Cynthia Weber (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), and Distortion or Development? Contending Perspectives on the Multinational Corporation (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1978).

He has written dozens of peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters, and policy papers. Among the more influential are: "The “Peculiar Problems” of Scholarly Engagement in the Policy Process," International Studies Review (2008), "A Comparative Assessment of Saudi Arabia with other Countries of the Islamic World," published in An Update on the Campaign Against the Financing of Terrorism, New York: Council on Foreign Relations (2004), "Reducing the role of the state in the economy: a conceptual exploration of IMF and World Bank prescriptions" in International Studies Quarterly (1990), "Critical Reflections on Post-Positivism in International Relations," International Studies Quarterly (1989), and "The Dialectics of World Order: Notes for a future archaeologist of international savoir faire," co-authored with Hayward R. Alker, Jr., International Studies Quarterly (1984).