Bo Rothstein 1994–2021
Born in Malmo in 1954, Bo Rothstein received his undergraduate degree in social science at Lund University. In 1986, he defended his thesis entitled Den socialdemokratiska staten – Reformer och förvaltning inom svensk arbetsmarknads- och skolpolitik (The Social Democratic State – Reforms and administration in Sweden’s labour market and schools policy). For a number of years after graduation, Rothstein worked in the Department of Political Science at Uppsala University. During this period, he published, among others, two books with the titles Den korporativa staten (The corporatist state) and Vad bör staten göra? (What should the state do?). In the latter, he combined empirical analysis of what the state can do with normative reasoning about what the state ought to do.
As a professor of political science, Rothstein has published prolifically in the form of both journal articles and books. The list of his publications in Swedish and English is very extensive. His research touches on a wide variety of areas. Some of these are welfare policy, social trust, interest groups, corruption, and the quality of political institutions. Here we find book titles such as The Social Democratic State, Just Institutions Matter and Social Traps and the Problem of Trust.
Together with his colleague Sören Holmberg, Rothstein founded the research programme The Quality of Government Institute. At the heart of its research lies the importance of impartial institutions untainted by corruption. Important results from the research programme were published in 2012 in Good Government: The Relevance of Political Science (published with Sören Holmberg). A key thesis of the book is that the quality of public institutions is of crucial importance to citizens’ living conditions. Problems such as high child mortality rates, poverty and other social miseries are frequently caused by a dysfunctional state apparatus rather than by a lack of medicines, technical equipment, or the like. In 2021, he published two more books in this area: Controlling Corruption and The Oxford Handbook of the Quality of Government (co-edited with Andreas Bågenholm, Monika Bauhr and Marcia Grimes).
Rothstein is and has been very active on the international stage. He has been a visiting research fellow at the Australian National University, Cornell University, Harvard University and Stanford University for example. Rothstein’s research has attracted considerable international attention for a considerable period of time. In 2016, he took up a professorship in political science at Oxford University. The time he spent in Oxford, however, was rather short. He renounced his post in 2018. This decision was made in protest after information emerged that one of Oxford University’s biggest donors had also provided financial support to former President Donald Trump. Rothstein subsequently returned to the University of Gothenburg.
Rothstein has invested a great deal of effort in further strengthening the third-cycle programme in political science at the University of Gothenburg, with the aim of making this programme of study internationally competitive.
Rothstein has been very active in social debate. With polemical passion, he has taken a stand on a wide range of issues. And these stands have most often been based on research in political science or another social science.