University of Rochester

Robert Bates Awarded Riker Prize for Political Science

February 28, 2000

Robert H. Bates, Eaton Professor of the Science of Government at Harvard University, will receive the first William H. Riker Prize for his research on the political economy of developing nations in Africa. The award will be presented at 3:30 p.m. Friday, March 17, in the Welles-Brown Room of Rush Rhees Library on the University of Rochester's River Campus.

At the award ceremony, Bates will deliver a lecture, titled "The Rochester School," on the impact of the University of Rochester on the development of political science. The Riker prize carries an award of $3,000. The Riker lecture is free and open to the public.

Riker, who was on the faculty of the Department of Political Science at the University of Rochester from 1962 until his death in 1993, believed that the scientific study of politics depended on combining excellent empirical study with incisive and well-developed deductive theory. Through his scholarship and leadership in the field, Riker and his colleagues established the Rochester department as one of the leading centers of political science in the nation. Riker's principal intellectual contribution was the development of "positive political theory," an essential subfield in political science that uses high-level mathematics as a way to understand politics.

The selection committee for the Riker prize cited Bates' extraordinary body of research, including such books as Unions, Parties, and Political Development; Rural Responses to Industrialization; Beyond the Miracle of the Market; Political and Economic Interactions in Economic Policy Reform; and Open Economy Politics, which deal primarily with African countries. In his work, Bates finds a rational choice-based explanation for the political issues these countries face, and the institutional structures and policies that have hindered their economic development.

In addition to honoring the memory of Riker, the prize is intended to continue two projects to which Riker devoted much of his career: promoting the scientific study of politics, and building the Department of Political Science at the University.

Bates, who received his bachelor's degree from Haverford College and his doctoral degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is also a faculty fellow of the Institute for International Development at Harvard. In recent years, he has undertaken extensive fieldwork in Colombia and Brazil, and is pursuing projects that look at political development and political economy issues in former socialist economies.