Helmke, Gretchen 1967–
Helmke, Gretchen 1967–
Office—Department of Political Science, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY 14627. E-mail—[email protected]
University of Rochester, Rochester, NY, assistant professor of political science, 2000-01, 2002—, organizer of Comparative Politics Workshop. National Science Foundation, member of grant committee, 2005-07; University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN, assistant professor of political science, 2001-02.
American Political Science Association (member of Herman C. Pritchett Award committee, 2003; member of executive committee, Law and Courts Section, 2007—), Midwest Political Science Association (section chair, Comparative Politics in the Developing World, 2007).
Congressional Quarterly Press Student Paper Award, American Political Science Association, 1999, for "Toward a Formal Theory of an Informal Institution: Insecure Tenure and Judicial Independence in Argentina, 1976-1995"; dissertation award, National Science Foundation, 1997-98; Social Science Research Council fellow, 1997-98; Mellon Foundation fellow, 1998-2000; Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies visiting fellow, 2000; Gabriel A. Almond Award nomination, American Political Science Association, 2002; Harvard Academy fellow, 2002-03 and 2004-05; Program in Empirical Policy Research Faculty Grant, Wallis Institute, University of Rochester, 2007; Fundación Carlos Nino fellow.
(Editor, with John Gershman, Karen Baker, and John Cavanagh) Trading Freedom: How Free Trade Affects Our Lives, Work, and Environment, Institute for Food and Development Policy (San Francisco, CA), 1992.
Also author of working paper "Toward a Formal Theory of an Informal Institution: Insecure Tenure and Judicial Independence in Argentina, 1976-1995," 1998. Contributor to books, including The Politics of Institutional Weakness: Argentine Democracy, edited by Steven Levitsky and Victoria Murillo, Pennsylvania State University Press, 2005. Contributor to periodicals, including American Political Science Review, Comparative Political Studies, Comparative Politics, Journal of Politics, and Perspectives on Politics.Journal of Politics, member of editorial board, 2007—.
Gretchen Helmke's book Courts under Constraints: Judges, Generals, and Presidents in Argentina advances a new explanation for why judges might rule against their governments, even when those judges do not enjoy judicial autonomy from them. Introducing a concept she calls "strategic defection," Helmke suggests that judges react to a weakening government by ruling against it to avoid removal or punishment by a new administration. Critical response to the book included both acknowledgment of the novelty and importance of Helmke's work and concern about how it was presented.
In the Law and Politics Book Review, Javier A. Couso remarked on the book's "many virtues" but also found "serious problems with her argument," most significant being what he called "methodological circularity." Helmke, he explained, uses her study of Argentina's judicial politics to both inspire and prove her theory. Aside from this problem, he related, the book is a "well researched and elegantly written case study." Reviewed twice in Latin American Politics and Society, Courts under Constraints each time received a mix of favorable comments and caveats. Linn Hammergren deemed the book "an important contribution" to the literature but expressed concerns about several of the author's assumptions and pointed out areas in which Helmke oversimplifies or overlooks other important factors. In conclusion, Hammergren wrote that "Helmke's interpretation may not fully capture the dynamics, but it offers an important start on the project and one worthy of serious attention." Describing Helmke's theory as "original and provocative," Druscilla Scribner claimed that the evidence Helmke assembles to support her theory is "compelling." Like Hammergren, she had reservations about the author's assumptions, but she observed that the book "is rapidly becoming an integral and influential component of comparative judicial politics scholarship."
Helmke returned to Latin American politics in Informal Institutions and Democracy: Lessons from Latin America, which she edited with Steven Levitsky. Focusing on unwritten, socially shared rules that arise organically rather than being handed down by official sources, the editors and contributors show how these rules work with or against formal rules to shape politics. Reviewing the book for the Journal of Latin American Studies, Joe Foweraker described it as "one of the most interesting and illuminating works on Latin American politics to appear in recent years." Contrasting it with other such collections, he commented on its "clear analytical focus" and "strong thematic content," and he felt that "the analytical agenda certainly stimulates some lively discussion." While Foweraker perceived a danger that the idea of informal institutions might later be overly broadened, he maintained that that possibility did not "detract from the value and originality of this collection, which deserves close attention from a wide readership."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Choice, September, 2005, R.E. Hartwig, review of Courts under Constraints: Judges, Generals, andPresidents in Argentina, p. 182; February, 2007, S.M. Wheeler, review of Informal Institutions and Democracy: Lessons from Latin America, p. 1049.
Christianity and Crisis, June 8, 1992, Kalima Rose, review of Trading Freedom: How Free Trade Affects Our Lives, Work, and Environment, p. 208.
International Affairs, October, 2005, Marc Schelhase, review of Courts under Constraints, p. 1171.
Journal of Latin American Studies, May, 2007, Joe Foweraker, review of Informal Institutions and Democracy, p. 406.
Latin American Politics and Society, summer, 2006, Linn Hammergren, review of Courts under Constraints, p. 194; winter, 2007, Druscilla Scribner, review of Courts under Constraints, p. 202.
Latin American Research Review, spring, 2006, Matthew M. Taylor, review of Courts under Constraints, p. 269.
Law and Politics Book Review, June, 2005, Javier A. Couso, review of Courts under Constraints, pp. 556-559.
Reference & Research Book News, November, 2006, review of Informal Institutions and Democracy.
University of Rochester Web site,http://mail.rochester.edu/ (September 22, 2008), faculty profile.