Political Science

David Skarbek

Professor of Political Science and Political Economy, Director of the Center for Philosophy, Politics, and Economics
25 George Street/Second Floor
Areas of Expertise Political Economy, Methods, Political Development/Politics and History
Office Hours Thursdays 2:00 - 3:00pm


David Skarbek is Associate Professor in Political Science at Brown University. His research examines how extralegal governance institutions form, operate, and evolve. He has published extensively on the informal institutions that govern life in prisons in California and around the globe. His work has appeared in leading journals in political science, economics, and criminology, including in the American Political Science Review, Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Journal of Law, Economics & Organization, and Journal of Criminal Justice.

His book, The Social Order of the Underworld: How Prison Gangs Govern the American Penal System (Oxford University Press), received the American Political Science Association’s 2016 William H. Riker Award for the best book in political economy in the previous three years. It was also awarded the 2014 Best Publication Award from the International Association for the Study of Organized Crime and was shortlisted for the British Sociological Association’s 2014 Ethnography Award. His most recent book, The Puzzle of Prison Order: Why Life Behind Bars Varies around the World, won awards from the American Society of Criminology and the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences. His work has been featured widely in national and international media outlets, such as the Atlantic, BBC, Business Insider, the Economist, Forbes, the Independent, and the Times.


Winner, 2021 Outstanding Book Award

American Society of Criminology, Division of International Criminology


Winner, 2021 Outstanding Book Award 

Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, International Section


Winner, 2022 Best Book Award

International Association for the Study of Organized Crime