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 DR.
  • ST. LOUIS, MO 63130-4899
image of book cover

​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.

            International Political Economy in Context

            International Political Economy in Context

            This book focuses on a micro approach to political economy that grounds policy choices in the competitive environments of domestic politics and decision-making processes.

            State Institutions, Private Incentives, Global Capital

            State Institutions, Private Incentives, Global Capital

            The growth of global finance since 1960 constitutes one of the most important transformations in social relations during the twentieth century. Using historical, statistical, and graphical techniques, State Institutions, Private Incentives, and Global Capital examines three important aspects of this phenomenal shift in the international political economy. First, Andrew Sobel explores the reawakening of the international financial markets, mapping their extraordinary transformation since the early 1960s and discussing the role of politics in that metamorphosis. The author then offers a fresh understanding of the systematic differences in access for borrowers in this rapidly transforming and expanding global capital pool. He then demonstrates the influence of political factors in producing differential access to the global capital pool. Showing how the character and stability of a country's political system affects investors's decisions to invest in that country, Sobel breaks new ground in understanding the basis for the frequent admonitions by the World Bank and others that a stable political and legal system are essential for states to attract significant foreign investment.

            With the growing debate about the effect of financial interdependence on the ability of states to conduct economic policy and indeed to preserve their independence in the face of unprecedented economic linkages, this book will be of interest to political scientists and economists as well as policy makers concerned with the impact of financial globalization and the causes of differentials in access to capital.

            Political Economy and Global Affairs

            Political Economy and Global Affairs

            Policy decisions at the domestic level--whether relating to currency rates, tariffs on certain goods, or labor protection--factor heavily on such issues as trade, monetary policy, foreign debt, and development. How can we best understand the way those decisions and events at the national level affect outcomes and policy at the international level? A focus on one over the other paints an incomplete picture for students. Sobel contends that we must focus on the individual preferences, strategies, and choices of political-economic policymakers in order to fully understand the larger, macro view of international political economy. With the aim of linking the two, Sobel helps students develop analytic skills for describing both what happens in the international political economy, and why policymakers make the choices they do.

            In this groundbreaking new text, Sobel presents--in a lucid and intuitive way--the core assumptions of scarcity, political survival, and rationality which form the basis of the book's "micro-level" approach. Individuals--not nations--make choices. With constraints as to what resources and opportunities are available, policymakers choose among alternatives that are most in sync with their self-interest. If students understand market failure and social traps, as well as how collective action problems affect interest group and institutional performance, they will be able to answer questions about a wide spectrum of events that start at the domestic level and spill over into global economic markets.

            To add context, Sobel presents a concise but detailed historical overview of globalization that demonstrates the shortcomings of common macro-level models in the field, from realism to liberalism to hegemonic stability theory. Your students will be equipped with a set of analytic tools that better explain individual behavior and social outcomes in areas such as trade liberalization, institutional bargains, factor endowments, currency exchange systems and convertibility, and development.

            Domestic Choices, Int'l Markets: Dismantling National Barriers and Liberalizing Securities Markets

            Domestic Choices, Int'l Markets: Dismantling National Barriers and Liberalizing Securities Markets

            This highly readable book is the outgrowth of a Ph.D. dissertation in political science. In a clear thesis, Sobel states that the dramatic deregulation of financial markets in the United States, Britain, and Japan during the 1970s and 1980s was driven not, as is commonly supposed, by growing international financial integration and competition, but by domestic pressure. Financial markets were severely segmented in all three countries. The advance of technology and certain triggering events, especially financial scandals in Britain and Japan, made financial liberalization politically possible.

            Sobel compiles a cornucopia of information on securities markets and government policy. The focus is equities and rather neglects foreign exchange and derivatives. The thesis draws a somewhat artificial dichotomy between domestic and international impetus to change and probably understates the extent that international competition wore down domestic opposition to change. The book itself observes that the United States sets the standards in financial developments that affect other countries. But it reminds us that, in the end, all politics is local.

            Challenges of Globalization: Immigration, Social Welfare, Global Governance

            Challenges of Globalization: Immigration, Social Welfare, Global Governance

            Vigorous debates swirl around issues of globalization, as global political economic relations in a nation-state system are complex and incompletely understood phenomena. The experiences of the late 1800's and first half of the twentieth century suggest that globalization requires nurturing to ensure that societies garner the advantages offered by globalization and manage the risks and fears unleashed by such dramatic transformation in social affairs.

            Featuring contributions by experts from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds including economics, political science and law, this edited volume offers a timely examination of the complexities surrounding modern globalization. Through discussion and evaluation of the problems associated with immigration, social welfare and income inequality, and global governance the book offers a significant contribution to the continuing globalization debate

            Providing both an overview of the debate and detailed discussion of specific examples, Challenges of Globalization will be of great interest to scholars of international political economy, international relations and globalization studies.

            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.