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Kenneth Abbott

Bio

Jack E. Brown Professor of Law , Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law

Professor of Global Studies, School of Politics and Global Studies, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Senior Sustainability Scholar, Global Institute of Sustainability

Education

JD, magna cum laude, Harvard University

BA in Government, Cornell University

Bio

Kenneth Abbott has followed an unusual career path for a professor of international law and global studies. He came from a small, strikingly non-global town in upstate New York. He trained as a lawyer at Harvard and practiced law for several years. He practiced poverty law in Boston and Oklahoma, then corporate law in Rochester, N.Y., where his work ranged from handling securities transactions to advising non-profit health organizations. As a law professor he shifted gears again, focusing on international law from an interdisciplinary perspective. He has taught in political science and global studies as well as law, and was director of Northwestern University’s Center for International and Comparative Studies.

Abbott's research and teaching lie at the juncture of international relations, international law and international organization. He takes from IR a concern for theoretically informed description and explanation; from IL a concern for rules, norms and institutions; and from IO a concern for institutional detail. His writings explore features of international governance that span many substantive areas: for example, why states organize their relations through formal organizations; why many international arrangements are legalized, while others take the form of “soft law;” how states arrange for the production of valuable information; and why private actors set many kinds of international standards, while states and international organizations promulgate others.

Abbott is currently working on the role of private and public-private organizations in promulgating and applying international norms. Dozens of organizations adopt and implement standards for transnational business conduct in areas such as worker rights and environmental protection. Some of these organizations are created by business, some by advocacy NGOs, and some by states or international organizations. Most interesting are blended forms of governance: public-private partnerships and multi-stakeholder organizations. How these institutions work, and how they can be used to address important global problems, are significant new frontiers in international governance.

In terms of substantive areas, Abbott's research and teaching have focused on economic regulation -- bribery and corruption, international trade, standards for business conduct -- global health governance, environmental and sustainability law and governance, and the reduction of global poverty in sustainable ways. At ASU he has begun working on international arranements for the governance of emerging technologies.  But in general he likes to go wherever his interest in international governance takes him.

Abbott's interest in international affairs was sparked by an inspiring college teacher and by his first trip abroad, when he worked on a construction crew in Berlin with “guest workers” from Turkey and North Africa to pay for a college summer in Europe. Since then he has been fortunate to teach, lecture and travel in many countries. He is a lover of music, especially classical and jazz. He has played clarinet, sax, guitar, piano and bass, and frequently sings in amateur choruses.

Research Interests

International governance; international institutions, public and private; international law; sustainability and environment; global health; international economic regimes.

Courses

Spring 2015

Courses Taught This Semester
Course Number Course Title
HON 494 Special Topics
LAW 691 Seminar
POS 394 Special Topics
SGS 394 Special Topics
SOS 394 Special Topics

Spring 2014

Courses Taught This Semester
Course Number Course Title
HON 494 Special Topics
LAW 791 Seminar
POS 394 Special Topics
SGS 394 Special Topics
SOS 394 Special Topics

Spring 2013

Courses Taught This Semester
Course Number Course Title
LAW 691 Seminar
POS 394 Special Topics
SGS 394 Special Topics
SOS 394 Special Topics

Spring 2012

Courses Taught This Semester
Course Number Course Title
HON 494 Special Topics
LAW 791 Seminar
SGS 321 Int'l Insts & Global Gov
SGS 494 Special Topics

Spring 2011

Courses Taught This Semester
Course Number Course Title
HON 494 Special Topics
LAW 691 Seminar
POS 394 Special Topics
SGS 394 Special Topics

Research Activity Research Awards

  1. Marchant,Gary E * , Abbott,Kenneth Wayne , Corley,Elizabeth , Sylvester,Douglas J , . Mechanisms for Transnational Coordination and Harmonization of Nanotechnology Governance in Support of Bioenergy Development. DOE-CHICAGO (9/1/2007 - 12/31/2012).
  2. Jacobson,David * , Abbott,Kenneth Wayne , Guhathakurta,Subhrajit , . Human Impacts of Different Global Climate Change Scenarios. Centra Tech., Inc. (8/5/2006 - 7/31/2007).

* principal investigator

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Curriculum Vitae / Resume

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