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M. Steven Fish

Current Status
+1 510 643-1943
744 Social Sciences Building
Office Hours
Tuesday 1:30pm - 3:30 p.m.
Upcoming/Future Courses
Fall 2021
Personal Statement

M. Steven Fish is a comparative political scientist who specializes in democracy and authoritarianism, religion and politics, and constitutional systems and national legislatures. He is the author of Are Muslims Distinctive? A Look at the Evidence (Oxford, 2011), which was selected for Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles, 2012: Top 25 Books. He is also author of Democracy Derailed in Russia: The Failure of Open Politics (Cambridge, 2005), which was the recipient of the Best Book Award of 2006, presented by the Comparative Democratization Section of the American Political Science Association, and Democracy from Scratch: Opposition and Regime in the New Russian Revolution (Princeton, 1995). He is coauthor of The Handbook of National Legislatures: A Global Survey (Cambridge, 2009) and Postcommunism and the Theory of Democracy (Princeton, 2001). He writes and comments extensively on international affairs and the rising challenges to democracy in the United States and around the world. He appears as a commentator on the BBC, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Deutsche Welle, Al Jazeera, CNN, CNA, and CNBC and has published commentary in the The American Interest, the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times,, and Foreign Policy. He has served as an expert consultant to U.S. federal agencies and international organizations such as the European Commission for Democracy through Law. He studied international relations, economics and history at Cornell and the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies before receiving his Ph.D. in political science from Stanford. In addition to UC Berkeley, he has taught at the University of Pennsylvania and universities in Russia, Poland, China, and Indonesia. He served as a Senior Fulbright Fellow and Visiting Professor at the Airlangga University, Surabaya, Indonesia, and at the European University at St. Petersburg, St. Petersburg, Russia. He has also been the recipient of the Distinguished Social Sciences Teaching Award of the College of Letters and Science at Berkeley.

Academic Subfields
Research Interests
Political Regimes
Regime Change
Religion and Politics
B.A. Cornell University
M.A. Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies
Ph.D. Stanford University

Are Muslims Distinctive? A Look at the Evidence. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. 408 pages.

"This book is a profound achievement. Reading it has been an eye-opening experience to the point that I feel that I will never be able to approach my own work and scholarship in the same way. As far as I am concerned, this book will be mandatory reading for all of my students. This book deserves to be widely read and debated by every student of Islam, by every reader who believes that he or she knows what Islam and Muslims are about, and even by every person who might have the most casual interest in the contemporary Muslim realm.”

--Khaled Abou El Fadl, University of California-Los Angeles

“This book constitutes a major milestone in moving beyond stereotypes and anecdotal evidence, and identifying the ways in which Muslim-majority societies actually are distinctive from other types of societies, utilizing a huge base of empirical cross-national evidence.”

--Ronald Inglehart, University of Michigan

“There’s no book to my knowledge that does what Fish accomplishes here…It provides us with the most comprehensive and scientifically rigorous study of the political, social, and religious attitudes of Muslims in cross-national perspective.”

--Amaney A. Jamal, Princeton University

“A refreshingly brash book. Skilled in empirical analysis, Steven Fish has avoided the temptation to define questions narrowly…Fish insists on following the data wherever it leads him, informed by past scholarly work but not bound by its conventions. He seeks neither to challenge nor confirm popular prejudices. As a result of this sweeping, data-centered approach, both scholarly and non-scholarly audiences will find the book by turns comforting and unsettling.”

--Nathan J. Brown, George Washington University

The Handbook of National Legislatures: A Global Survey (coauthored with Matthew Kroenig).  New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009.  808 pages.

“…an impressive undertaking, genuinely novel in its conception, and remarkably broad in scope.”
---John Carey, Dartmouth College

“…a signal achievement…a valuable cross-national index of parliamentary powers and an authoritative reference guide to each of the world's major national legislatures.”
---Thomas F. Remington, Emory University

“…a unique volume of enormous importance in its contribution to the creation of rich and truly comparative data on the formal and informal power of national legislatures across the world. This book is destined to become a chief source for many important contributions in the future.”
---Staffan I. Lindberg, University of Florida

Data from the Handbook of National Legislatures

Democracy Derailed in Russia: The Failure of Open Politics.  New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005.  336 pages.  (Recipient of the Best Book Award of 2006, presented by the Comparative Democratization Section of the American Political Science Association)

 "This is an important work, and should be read both by Russia specialists and those interested in comparative democratization. It is very well written and its presentation is easy to follow, making it amenable for undergraduate course use as well. With this book, Fish has raised the bar for future work on Russian politics."
---Perspectives on Politics

"All serious scholars of contemporary Russia should engage with what Fish has written here, in what is undoubtedly one of the book books on Russia today." ---International Affairs 

Democracy from Scratch: Opposition and Regime in the New Russian Revolution. Princeton,NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995.  300 pages.

"This book does a superb job of deparochializing Soviet and post-Soviet studies. But more importantly, Fish sheds new theoretical light on the dynamic of the transition from ideocratic authoritarianism…Elegantly written, conceptually original, and intellectually provocative, Fish's book is a most illuminating contribution to the growing body of scholarship on political democratization and the problematic transitions from state socialism."
---American Political Science Review

"A theoretically sophisticated, original, and convincing account of the emergence of the democratic opposition in the Gorbachev period and after, and the reasons for its continuing weakness, Democracy from Scratch is one of the most important contributions to the political science of the new Russia yet published. It questions much conventional wisdom and should reshape important debates."
---Europe-Asia Studies




Recent Op-Ed Pieces




PS 191-6 - Foundations of Political Thought and Action - Syllabus
PS 200 - Major Themes in Comparative Analysis - Syllabus
PS 2 - Introduction to Comparative Politics - Syllabus

PS 129 - Russian Politics - Syllabus