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Stein Ringen, a Norwegian political scientist, is emeritus professor at Green Templeton College, University of Oxford, where he from 1990 held the chair in sociology and social policy, and an affiliate of St Antony’s College, Oxford. He started his academic career as a junior fellow at the International Peace Research Institute in Oslo and was subsequently Professor of Welfare Studies at the University of Stockholm, senior research scientist at the Norwegian Central Bureau of Statistics, and adjunct professor at Lillehammer University College. He has held visiting professorships and fellowships in Paris, Berlin, Prague, Brno, Barbados, Jerusalem, Sydney, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, and at Harvard University. He has been Head of Research in the Norwegian Ministry of Public Administration, Assistant Director General in the Norwegian Ministry of Justice, a consultant to the United Nations, and a news and feature reporter with the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. He is a Fellow of the European Academy of Sociology and Doctor Honoris Causa at Masaryk University in the Czech Republic.


Stein Ringen’s current research is for a project on Good Government. This explores some of the core concepts of political science: power is the fuel of governance, statecraft turns power into effective rule, freedom is the value to be maximised, poverty is the ill to be minimised, democracy is the framework that enables these combinations. The project aims to pull together main strands from years of research on states, governance, leadership, well-being, inequality and democracy.

The overall concern is the state of democracy in today’s world.

He writes a blog on the whys and hows of democracy on


The Perfect Dictatorship: China in the 21st Century (Hong Kong University Press 2016; Chinese version by Rive Gauch Publishers, Taipei 2017; Norwegian version by Scandinavian Academic Press, Oslo 2017; Czech version by Academia, Prague fortcoming 2018).

Nation of Devils: Democratic Leadership and the Problem of Obedience (Yale University Press, 2013; Rusian version by Delo Publishers of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, Moscow 2016, Czech version by Masaryk University Press, Brno 2017; Chinese version by CITIC Publishers, Beijing, currently ‘suspended’ by the censors).

The Korean State and Social Policy: How South Korea Lifted itself from Poverty and Dictatorship to Affluence and Democracy (co-authored, Oxford University Press 2011).

‘The Measurement of Democracy – Towards a New Paradigm’ (Society Volume 48, Issue 1, 2011,followed by a symposium of comments by Arend Lijphart, Andrew Sabl, Monty G. Marshall, Nico Stehr and Jason L. Mast).

Democratic Quality in America and Europe (in Jens Alber and Neil Gilbert eds.: United in Diversity: Comparing Social Models in Europe and America. New York: Oxford University Press 2010).

The Economic Consequences of Mr. Brown: How a Strong Government Was Defeated by a Weak System of Governance (Oxford: The Bardwell Press, Oxford 2009).

What Democracy Is For: On Freedom and Moral Government. (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2007 and 2009; Norwegian revised version by Koloritt, Oslo: 2008; Korean version by Bobmunsa, Seoul 2009; Turkish version by Yapi Kredi Yayinlari (YKY, Cogito), Istanbul 2010; Chinese version by Xinhua,  Beijing 2012).

The Possibility of Politics: A Study in the Political Economy of the Welfare State(Oxford University Press 1987 and 1989 and Transaction 2006).