Peter A. Swenson is Yale’s C.M. Saden Professor of Political Science. He specializes in the comparative political economy of labor markets and social welfare in Europe and the United States. He teaches courses on the economic, political and social foundations of social policy and market regulation in developed capitalist democracies, with special focuses on health care and the environment.

He is a two-time recipient of APSA’s Mary Parker Follett Prize for best article in politics and history for “Varieties of Capitalist Interests: Power, Institutions and the Making of Welfare States in the United States and Sweden” (2002) and “Misrepresented Interests: Organized Business, Medicare, and the Building of the American Health Care State” (2019). He also received honorable mention for APSA’s Luebbert Prize for best book in comparative politics for his book Capitalists against Markets: The Making of Labor Markets and Welfare States in the United States and Sweden (2002). 

Swenson’s most recent book is Disorder: A History of Reform, Reaction, and Money in American Medicine, published by Yale University Press in 2021. The new book traces the political transformations in American medicine with extensive details on the dramatic conflicts inside organized medicine as well as between the medical profession and society over, among other things, quality, equality, and economy in health care. It received honorable mention for APSA’s 2022 J. David Greenstone Award for best book in politics and history.

Reviews of Disordered

“A bold, zealous reassessment of the American Medical Association as profoundly progressive before a 1920s reactionary turn. Certain to animate spirited debate over the political transformations underlying America’s medical disorder.”—John Harley Warner, author of Dissection and Locating Medical History

“Peter Swenson’s Disorder is a triumph of scholarship and certain to be the go-to source on the political transformations of American medicine over 150 years.”—Howard Wolinsky, co-author of The Serpent on the Staff: The Unhealthy Politics of the American Medical Association

“This sweeping opus tells an epic tale of American medicine, with its complexities and struggles, and helps us simultaneously see its flaws and promise – while providing an impetus to guide the progress to a better era.” — Harlan Krumholz, M.D., author of The Expert Guide to Beating Heart Disease

“A necessary and worthy successor to Paul Starr’s momentous Social Transformation of American Medicine. Peter Swenson vividly portrays the history of an enormous business and profession that meanders but is not lost.”—George D. Lundberg, M.D., author of Severed Trust: Why American Medicine Hasn’t Been Fixed

“This book is a definitive account of the politics and societal underpinnings of U.S. health policy during the Progressive Era. It is rich with material about the bewilderment, innovation, conflict, and reaction as the medical establishment processed the pressures for change in this time of evolving science.”—David R. Mayhew, author of Divided We Govern

“With fresh facts and never-before-heard anecdotes, Disorder provides an insightful, often-surprising and enjoyably readable history of organized medicine in America and its impact on us all.”—Michael L. Millenson, author of Demanding Medical Excellence: Doctors and Accountability in the Information Age

“This book is both an important contribution to the history of the American medical profession (and its impact on society as a whole), and a reminder of the malleable, historically contingent nature of its identity and ethos.”—Scott H. Podolsky, M.D., author of The Antibiotic Era: Reform, Resistance, and the Pursuit of a Rational Therapeutics

“Peter Swenson challenges conventional wisdom about the political history of medicine in the US telling, among other things, a fascinating—and most timely—story about the dark side of American populism and how it has long disrupted public health and the common good. Disorder is deeply researched, beautifully written, thought-provoking and highly recommended.”—James A. Morone, author of Republic of Wrath: How American Politics Turned Tribal from George Washington to Donald Trump

“Disorder is a comprehensive, revealing and surprising account of the history of American medicine: its underappreciated contributions and better-known failings. A must-read for students of the medical profession.”—David Blumenthal, M.D., co-author of Heart of Power: Health and Politics in the Oval Office and President, the Commonwealth Fund

“Peter Swenson reveals the conservativism of American medicine as not a fixed reality of incentives but a tense, emergent political coalition. Disorder shows medical conservatism’s political triumph rested on the successes and frailties of earlier progressivism.”—Daniel Carpenter, author of Democracy by Petition