Konstantin Sonin Named John Dewey Distinguished Service Professor

Konstantin Sonin, a political economist who joined the Harris School of Public Policy this fall, has been named the John Dewey Distinguished Service Professor. The appointment was recommended by Dean Daniel Diermeier and University of Chicago Provost Eric Isaacs and approved by the University’s Board of Trustees on December 3.

With this appointment, Sonin joins a small group of eminent scholars at the University. W. Allison Davis, a social anthropologist and psychologist who studied the relationship between academic performance and child development, among many other research interests, became the University’s first John Dewey Distinguished Service Professor in 1970. Nobel Prize winner Robert Lucas currently holds the emeritus title.

“We are proud that the University has extended this significant honor to Konstantin,” Diermeier said. “His path-breaking research on the political economy of non-democratic regimes and transitions to democracy has significantly deepened our understanding of economic and political development, and I am confident he will continue to make important contributions in the years to come.”
A Russian native whose research interests include development economics, political economy, and economic theory and, Sonin served as a professor and vice rector at the prestigious Higher School of Economics in Moscow until December 2014.

In recent years Sonin has focused on applying microeconomic concepts to an array of social and political phenomena, including corruption, dictatorship, and the inequitable distribution of property. In addition to his academic work, Sonin publishes a widely read blog on Russian political and economic issues and writes a column for the Russian-language newspaper Vedomosti. He is frequently cited in the Western press as an expert on the Russian economy. 

Sonin earned a master of science degree from Moscow State University in 1995 and a master of arts degree in economics at Moscow’s New Economic School in 1998. He completed his PhD in mathematics at Moscow State University that same year with a dissertation on ring theory, a subfield of abstract algebra. Following a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, he served on the faculty of the New Economic School from 2001 to 2013 and then at the Higher School of Economics from 2013 to 2015. Sonin was also a member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, in 2004-2005. He remains affiliated with the Higher School of Economics as a visiting professor and adviser. 

“To be associated with such names as John Dewey, Allison Davis and Robert Lucas is a great privilege and honor,” Sonin said. “Reading the materials of the ‘Dewey Commission,’ which investigated charges against Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky at the infamous Moscow Trials of 1930s, in the late 1980s (before that Dewey’s work was banned in the Soviet Union for fifty years), I would have never dreamed of following his intellectual tradition at the University of Chicago.”