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Brian Solomon’s Guide To The Stars: Sociology Professor John Campbell

Dartmouth has a wealth of experienced professors who lead their respective research fields, while also working closely with students — inspiring them in the classroom and leading them in laboratory environments. And while at Dartblog we talk frequently about problems that need to be fixed at the College, there are still many bright spots. Our professors deserve more recognition for their achievements. As such, this is one of a series of posts that shines a spotlight on the best professors in Hanover:

John Campbell1.jpgJohn L. Campbell is the Class of 1925 Professor and Professor of Sociology, as well as Chair of the Sociology department at the College. He also serves as Professor of Political Economy at the Copenhagen Business School in Denmark. Campbell’s curiosity has made him one of the most productive interdisciplinary researchers at Dartmouth, where his work stretches from a base in sociology to government, economics, and public policy. Yet his overriding focus is on institutions: where they come from, how they change, and how they affect nations, politics, and the economy.

Growing up in the turbulent 1960s, Campbell was always keenly interested in the world at large. In college at St. Lawrence University, he veered into sociology as an outlet for that interest after acing an introductory course in his first semester. Campbell’s first job after graduating was as a bartender, and he read sociology books all day before work. He eventually earned his M.A. from Michigan State University and then his Ph.D. in 1984 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Campbell’s research has never been static. While earning his Ph.D., he examined U.S. nuclear energy policy and why the country that created nuclear power generation could essentially abandon it as an option just a few decades later. The differences between the United States and nuclear-happy countries such as France were largely institutional: licensing and regulating nuclear was politically contentious here in ways that it wasn’t abroad. By 1988, Campbell was teaching at Harvard and researching everything from the evolution of American tax policy to major governmental and economic changes in Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Campbell joined the Dartmouth faculty as a professor in 1996, and his current stint as chair of the sociology department is his second (the first was from 1997 to 2003). Since arriving in Hanover, he has continued his eclectic choice of institutional and public policy-oriented research topics. In 2007, he published his most cited work to date, a paper titled “Why Would Corporations Behave In Socially Responsible Ways?” Overall, Campbell has more than 10,000 individual citations and a h-index of 32, according to Google Scholar.

He has been prolific in writing books, too. “The Paradox of Vulnerability: Small Nation-States and the Financial Crisis” is Campbell’s latest, scheduled to be published at the end of this year. The book evolved out of a course he still teaches, SOCY 66: Markets and Management; it focuses on how three smaller countries — Denmark, Switzerland, and Ireland — dealt with the recent financial crisis. Last year he published “The World Of States,” and in 2014, “The National Origins of Policy Ideas.” Recently he has been considering a book on the Donald Trump phenomenon, and an analysis of the conditions that led to Trump’s emergence, especially in comparison to European countries that have seen similar right wing, anti-immigrant, xenophobic movements.

Meanwhile, Campbell has cultivated a special relationship with the Copenhagen Business School, where he works every Spring as a professor in the political economy research department. He also started and directs an exchange program that sends 6-12 Dartmouth students to Copenhagen University for the fall term each year.

Considering that it was his hook into the subject over 40 years ago, it’s no surprise that Campbell’s favorite course to teach is SOCY 1: Introduction to Sociology, a lecture course he leads once a year for 80-100 students. Half of the class is made up of freshman, and he likes waking them up with rock music at 9am on a Monday. Given Campbell’s wide-ranging intellectual curiosity, it also makes sense that he enjoys the course because it forces him to keep up with the wide spectrum of sociology research which he hasn’t personally had time to take on (at least so far).


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