Janine R. Wedel

Photo of Janine R. Wedel
Titles and Organizations

Distinguished University Professor

Contact Information

Phone: 703-993-3567
Fax: 703-993-8215
Mason Square, Van Metre Hall, Room 638
3351 Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22201
MSN: 3B1

Personal Websites


Janine R. Wedel is a Distinguished University Professor in the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University. She is a pioneer in applying anthropological insights to topics dominated by political scientists, economists, or sociologists.

Wedel presently writes about elite influencers, power networks, and shadow elites in the United States, Europe, and Russia; governance transformations over the past half-century; and the Kremlin’s weaponized corruption—all through the lens of a social anthropologist. She has an internationally recognized record of innovative scholarly research and commentary on current intellectual issues. She has been named a Global Policy Chair at the University of Bath in the U.K.; a fellow at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin; the Kerstin Hesselgren Professor in Sweden; and a New America Foundation senior fellow. She is currently a Visiting Scholar at the Institute for Futures Studies, Stockholm; and a Faculty Associate of the Petrach Program on Ukraine. Wedel is the first anthropologist to win the Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order, an honor typically reserved for political scientists (previous recipients include Samuel Huntington and Mikhail Gorbachev).

Wedel is cofounder and past president of the Association for the Anthropology of Policy (ASAP), a section of the American Anthropological Association.

A five-time Fulbright fellow, Wedel has also won awards from the National Science Foundation, Swedish Research Council, EU Horizon Europe, MacArthur Foundation, Ford Foundation, Institute for New Economic Thinking, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, National Endowment for the Humanities, Social Science Research Council, International Research and Exchanges Board, National Council for Eurasian and East European Research, United States Institute of Peace, German Marshall Fund, Eurasia Foundation, National Institute of Justice, and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, among others.

Wedel is currently at work on a book for Oxford University Press on elite influence.

Her previous books have been widely and favorably reviewed (http://janinewedel.info/books.html). Shadow Elite: How the World’s New Power Brokers Undermine Democracy, Government and the Free Market (Basic Books 2009) was book of the month for the Huffington Post and received a starred review in Publishers WeeklyContemporary Sociology called it “an example of the cutting edge of the discipline [of anthropology].” Choice writes that “Wedel… presents an arresting theory of power that deserves wide attention….as a thinker she is in the same league as John Kenneth Galbraith and Charles Lindblom.” Her subsequent book, Unaccountable: How the Establishment Corrupted Our Finances, Freedom, and Politics and Created an Outsider Class (Pegasus, updated paperback and kindle editions 2016), was named in the Bloomberg survey of 2014 favorite reads.

Wedel’s Collision and Collusion: The Strange Case of Western Aid to Eastern Europe (Palgrave 2001) sparked considerable controversy and was widely acclaimed. It was named “impressive and informative” by Foreign AffairsAmerican Ethnologist called it “a tribute to the high caliber of Wedel’s journalistic and anthropological abilities alike and a reminder of the need for a re-envisioned and effective anthropology brought to bear on pressing social issues.”

Her first book, The Private Poland: An Anthropologist’s Look at Everyday Life (1986) which Osteuropa Wirtschaft called “a brilliant account of contemporary Polish society” was likened by the Christian Science Monitor to Hedrick Smith’s The Russians. Wedel has also published the coauthored Confronting Corruption, Building Accountability (2010) and The Unplanned Society: Poland During and After Communism (edited, translated, annotated and introductions 1992), which the British anthropology journal Man called a “pioneering work.”

A public intellectual, Wedel has contributed analysis pieces to more than a dozen major outlets, including the New York TimesFinancial Times, Washington PostWall Street Journal EuropeProject Syndicate, Los Angeles TimesUSA Today, Boston GlobePoliticoSalon, Christian Science Monitor, NationDie Blätter für deutsche und internationale Politik, and others. She contributed a regular featured column to the Huffington Post for more than seven years. She has served as an associate producer of three PBS documentaries. Her television appearances include CNN, MSNBC, BBC, PBS, C-Span, Deutsche Welle, and Al Jazeera, as well as many radio shows, including BBC and both NPR and satellite.

Wedel has testified before congressional subcommittees and written for the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress and units of the United Nations, the World Bank, and the OECD. Her stops on the university lecture circuit include Harvard, Yale, Columbia, MIT, Chicago, Berkeley, Princeton, Oxford, Brown University, University of Toronto, Central European University (Budapest), University of Warsaw, London Business School, Institute of Social Studies (the Hague), University College London, United Nations University/WIDER (Helsinki), and Freie Universität (Berlin). Other audiences have included TEDx (Berlin), OECD (Paris), Bruno Kreisky Institute (Vienna), European Journalism Observatory (Lugano, Switzerland), New America Foundation, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, National Press Club, National Research Council/National Academy of Sciences, and watchdog NGOs.

Wedel’s work has been favorably reviewed and quoted in the New York Review of BooksEconomist, New York TimesNewsweekFinancial TimesVanity Fair, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Investor’s Business Daily, New Republic, Foreign AffairsChronicle of Higher Education, and Publishers Weekly, among many others. It has been reviewed or translated into Chinese, Danish, French, German, Hungarian, Japanese, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, Swedish, and Turkish.

Areas of Research

  • Elite Influencers & Shadow Elites
  • Informal Networks and Practices
  • Professional “Enablers”
  • Elite Corruption
  • Central & Eastern Europe
  • Russia & Ukraine
  • Anthropology of Public Policy
  • Foreign Aid
  • Privatization
  • Audit Culture
  • Digital Bureaucracy