Jenna Bednar

Professor of Political Science

Director, Michigan in Washington
University of Michigan

External Faculty, Santa Fe Institute
(734) 615-5685

Jenna Bednar is a professor of political science at the University of Michigan and a member of the external faculty at the Santa Fe Institute. Her research combines positive political theory and systems theory to study how formal institutions, such as laws, electoral rules, or constitutions, remain effective in complex environments. She considers institutions not in isolation but as part of a system, with a focus on three questions, all related to institutional robustness: (i) how institutions may complement one another to impove their functionality, (ii) how institutional features enable systemic response to perturbations and avoid failures, and (iii) how the interplay between culture and institutions contributes to the production of social goods.

She applies these models of multi-institutional analysis to research in three broad categories: first, numerous articles and a book (The Robust Federation, Cambridge University Press, 2009) that address the robustness of federal systems; second, theoretical and experimental work on cultural evolution and institutional performance; and the third contains essays, an empirical paper, and public policy related projects that push her ideas into more applied realms such as campaign contributions, transboundary water systems, and environmental sustainability.

CV Research