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Kenneth Sharpe

William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor Emeritus

Emeritus Political Science


  2. Phone: (610) 328-8127
Kenneth Sharpe


            Kenneth E. Sharpe is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Political Science at Swarthmore College where he teaches political philosophy, practical ethics, Latin American politics, and foreign policy.  He has been a Visiting Professor at the University of British Columbia, at the Law School at the University of Colorado, and at Dartmouth College.  He has done research, teaching and writing in Latin American politics, , U.S. foreign policy, narcotics policy, and democratization.  His emphasis in recent years is in the field of political philosophy and ethics with a focus on character development and practical wisdom in contemporary life, work, and politics. (Sharpe C.V.)

            Professor Sharpe work on ethics began with his co-authored article “Capitalism, Work, and Character” with Eva Bertram which appeared in The American Prospect in September 2000.  In 2002-2003 he was awarded a Mellon Foundation Grant to spend a year doing research on practical wisdom in contemporary life.  This research led him to team up with Swarthmore psychologist Barry Schwartz to design an interdisciplinary course, Practical Wisdom.  The research and teaching he and Schwartz undertook led to their book: Practical Wisdom: The Right Way to Do the Right Thing (Penguin/Riverhead 2011).   In 2014 he was awarded a grant from the Templeton Foundation to begin research on the effects of institutional design on encouraging or corroding character and practical wisdom.  Preliminary results of that research have been published: “Practicing Practical Wisdom,” Mercer University Law Journal (with Deborah Cantrell), forthcoming 2015;  “Moral Jazz and Patient Centered Care,” published in the Arnold P. Gold Foundation in Humanism in Medicine  ( 15, 2014);  Barry Schwartz and Kenneth Sharpe, “The War on Wisdom and How to Fight It,”  in Mark L. Jones, Paul A. Lewis, and Kelly E. Refitt, Toward Human Flourishing, Character, Practical Wisdom and Professional Formation, (Macon, Georgia:  Mercer University Press, 2013); “Colleges Should Teach Intellectual Virtues,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, February 24, 2012 (with B. Schwartz);  “Educating the 21st Century Cop: Developing Blue Courage and Practical WisdomPolice Chief, November 2012,  with M. Nila and B. Schwartz; and “Teaching Ourselves to Teach,” Inside Higher Ed, January 26, 2016.

            Professor Sharpe’s work on democratization, popular participation and power extends back to his first book four decades ago, Peasant Politics: Struggle in a Dominican Village (Johns Hopkins University Press 1977) and includes, more recently, New Institutions for Participatory Democracy in Latin America (co-edited with Maxwell Cameron and Eric Hershberg, Palgrave 2012).  He has also explored the troubling relationship between foreign policy and constitutional democracy in a number of articles including "The Real Cause of Irangate" (Foreign Policy Magazine, Fall 1987) and "The Post-Vietnam Formula under Siege: The Imperial Presidency and Central America " (Political Science Quarterly, Winter 1988).    

            Professor Sharpe’s work on the drug war began in 1988. His major book on the subject is  Drug War Politics: The Price of Denial (with Eva Bertram, Morris Blachman and Peter Andreas, University of California Press, 1996).  His other articles include  “Realpolitik or Imperial Hubris: The Latin American Drug War and U.S. Foreign Policy in Iraq" appeared in the Summer 2006 issue of Orbis;  "Two Wars or One? Drugs, Guerrillas, and Colombia's New Violencia" (with William LeoGrande) in the World Policy Journal (Fall 2000); "The War on Drugs: American Democracy Under Assault" in World Policy Journal (Winter, 1990),  "Dead End Drug Wars" (with P. Andreas, E. Bertram, M.J. Blachman) in Foreign Policy (Winter 1991-1992), and "The Unwinnable Drug War: What Clausewitz Would Tell Us," (with E. Bertram) in World Policy Journal (Winter 1996-97).

            Professor Sharpe has also spent over four years doing field research in Latin America in Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic.  He is the author of The State and the Transnational Corporations: The Political Economy of the Mexican Auto Industry (Princeton University Press). He has written widely on U.S. foreign policy in Central America including his co-authored book Confronting Revolution: Security Through Diplomacy in Central America (Pantheon: 1986).

            Professor Sharpe has given testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  His articles have appeared in a number of newspapers and periodicals including The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The NationNewsday, The Miami Herald, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Baltimore Sun, The St. Louis Post Dispatch, The International Herald Tribune, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, The Atlanta Constitution, In These Times, The San Jose Mercury News, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and Slate.