Andrew Sobel

Andrew Sobel

Director and Professor of International and Area Studies
Professor of Political Science (by courtesy)
Director, University College MA Program in International Affairs
Coordinator, Development and International Affairs concentrations
PhD, University of Michigan
research interests:
  • Global Finance
  • Domestic Explanations of International Behavior

contact info:

mailing address:

  • Washington University
    CB 1088
    One Brookings Drive
    St. Louis, MO 63130-4899

​Professor Sobel specializes in the politics of global finance with a focus upon domestic explanations of international behavior. He is the author or editor of six books and numerous articles.

Professor Sobel specializes in the politics of global finance with a focus on domestic explanations of international behavior. For undergraduates, he offers advanced seminars on the Global Political Economy, Political Economy of Global Finance, Growth and Development, and Globalization and National Politics. He teaches graduate classes in Global Political Economy, Growth and Development, and Politics of Global Finance. Sobel is the author or editor of six books and numerous articles. 

recent courses

Gateway to Development

Why do some nations develop while others languish? What accounts for disparities in wealth and opportunity in the world? These are far more than simply economic questions because development creates economic, political, and social surpluses, skills and capabilities that can be allocated to other tasks. Societies that attain development become more capable actors in world affairs and are better able to address problems confronting their domestic societies. This seminar explores what governments and societies do to promote or hinder growth and development, and how those actions influence social arenas.

    International Relations

    Globalization, the accelerating rate of interaction between people of different countries, creates a qualitative shift in the relationship between nation-states and national economies. Conflict and war is one form of international interaction. Movement of capital, goods, services, production, information, disease, environmental degradation, and people across national boundaries are other forms of international interactions. This course introduces major approaches, questions, and controversies in the study of international relations. We will explore seminal literature at the core of modern international relations theory. We will examine the building blocks of world politics, the sources of international conflict and cooperation, and the globalization of material and social relations.

      Politics of Global Finance

      Global finance underwent stunning transformations over the past thirty years. The changes contribute to interdependence, challenge national sovereignty, alter state-society relations, affect economic development, and influence the distribution of wealth and power in the global political economy. The seminar examines the political economy of monetary relations, the globalization of capital markets, and their effects upon domestic and international affairs.

        State Failure, State Success and Development

        Why do some nations develop while others languish? This course takes an interdisciplinary approach to examining the role governments play in development and economic outcomes. Knee-jerk ideologues from all parts of the political spectrum make competing arguments, most of which are overly simplistic and ignore good social science. Some argue that state involvement in the economy hinders economic activity and development, while others argue for greater state involvement. Such arguments are often poorly informed by systematic rigorous research. We will look at some of the competing arguments about governments in failed and successful states and compare those arguments to the empirical world, or data. In so doing we will recognize that how governments affect development and economic outcomes in society is neither straightforward nor consistent with any of the simplistic ideological screeds that often dominate public discourse.

          International Politics

          Globalization, the accelerating rate of interaction between people of different countries, creates a qualitative shift in the relationship between nation-states and national economies. Conflict and war is one form of international interaction. Movement of capital, goods, services, production, information, disease, environmental degradation, and people across national boundaries are other forms of international interactions. This course introduces major approaches, questions, and controversies in the study of global political-economic relations. In a small group seminar we will examine the building blocks of world politics, the sources of international conflict and cooperation, and the globalization of material and social relations.

            Selected Publications

            Sobel, Andrew C. 2013. International Political Economy in Context: Individual Choices, Global Effects,  Washington D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Press.

            Sobel, Andrew C. 2012. Birth of Hegemony. Crisis, Financial Revolution and Emerging Global Networks, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

            Sobel, Andrew C. (ed.). 2009. Challenges of Globalization: Immigration, social welfare, global governance, Routledge Press.

            Sobel, Andrew C. 2006. Political Economy and World Affairs, Washington D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Press.

            Sobel, Andrew C. 1999. State Institutions, Private Incentives, Global Capital. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.

            Sobel, Andrew C. 1994. Domestic Choices, International Markets: Dismantling National Barriers and Liberalizing Securities Markets. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.

            Birth of Hegemony: Crisis, Financial Revolution and Emerging Global Networks

            Birth of Hegemony: Crisis, Financial Revolution and Emerging Global Networks

            With American leadership facing increased competition from China and India, the question of how hegemons emerge—and are able to create conditions for lasting stability—is of utmost importance in international relations. The generally accepted wisdom is that liberal superpowers, with economies based on capitalist principles, are best able to develop systems conducive to the health of the global economy.

            In Birth of Hegemony, Andrew C. Sobel draws attention to the critical role played by finance in the emergence of these liberal hegemons. He argues that a hegemon must have both the capacity and the willingness to bear a disproportionate share of the cost of providing key collective goods that are the basis of international cooperation and exchange. Through this, the hegemon helps maintain stability and limits the risk to productive international interactions. However, prudent planning can account for only part of a hegemon’s ability to provide public goods, while some of the necessary conditions must be developed simply through the processes of economic growth and political development. Sobel supports these claims by examining the economic trajectories that led to the successive leadership of the Netherlands, Britain, and the United States.

            Stability in international affairs has long been a topic of great interest to our understanding of global politics, and Sobel’s nuanced and theoretically sophisticated account sets the stage for a consideration of recent developments affecting the United States.

            International Political Economy in Context

            International Political Economy in Context

            Although many international political economy texts offer good descriptions of what events have occurred in global economic and political relations, they make little attempt to develop explicit theoretical frameworks explaining why. Andrew Sobel's International Political Economy in Context: Individual Choices, Global Effects takes a micro approach to international political economy that considers the fact that individuals-not nations-make choices. Grounding policy choices in the competitive environs of domestic politics and decision-making processes, Sobel illustrates how policymakers choose among alternatives, settling on those that are most in sync with their self-interest. The book is structured to build students' skills for a sophisticated understanding of how and why events unfold in the international political economy. Students become versed in the primary assumptions and structural/macro conditions of economic and political geography in the global arena. An examination of micro-level conditions and mechanisms introduces the factors that influence political and economic outcomes. Students are then able to use those primary assumptions and micro-level arrangements to make sense of past and present changes in the global political economy. Those familiar with Sobel's first volume, Political Economy and Global Affairs, will easily find their way through this new book. Anyone looking for a compelling, accessible, and fully integrated rational choice perspective on international political economy will find it here.