Joseph L. Klesner has taught political science and interdisciplinary international studies courses at Kenyon since 1985. His early scholarly work focused on Mexican electoral politics and the transition from one-party rule to competitive politics in that country. More recently, he has focused his research on political culture and public opinion, especially in Latin America, publishing articles on social capital, political participation, and the impact of corruption on trust in the region. His textbook, "Comparative Politics: An Introduction," was published by McGraw-Hill in 2014.

Klesner returned to a full-time faculty role in 2022 after eleven years in administration, first as associate provost (2010-13), then provost (2013-20), and finally as senior advisor to the president for strategic planning (2020-21). He is also the director of the Center for the Study of American Democracy. During his time at Kenyon he has directed the interdisciplinary International Studies Program and chaired the Department of Political Science. He also served as chair of the Kenyon faculty (1998-2000), chaired the Faculty Lectureships Committee and the Curricular Policy Committee, and coordinated two of the College’s recent presidential searches.

Klesner has held three Fulbright awards (Mexico, 1983-84; South America, 1993; and Ireland, 2005-6). In the most recent of those he taught in the Department of Politics and International Relations at University College Dublin. His teaching interests include the introductory comparative politics course, "Modern Democracies," and courses on democratic practice and on public opinion and political culture. He often teaches the capstone senior seminar in International Studies.

Areas of Expertise

Comparative politics, public opinion, political culture, democratic transitions, authoritarian rule, electoral politics, Mexican and Latin American politics


1988 — Doctor of Philosophy from Massachusetts Institute Tech

1983 — Master of Science from Massachusetts Institute Tech

1980 — Bachelor of Arts from Central College Iowa

Courses Recently Taught

This seminar examines some of the problems inherent in cross-cultural comparison and explores the ways in which a variety of disciplines grapple with these difficulties by investigating contemporary themes in international affairs. These themes include some or all of the following: ethnic conflict; comparative perspectives on development; religion and socioeconomic development; contemporary environmental problems; the ethics of armed intervention; the emergence of a world popular culture and its consequences for national cultures; the challenges of democratization; and perceptions of the United States, Americans and U.S. foreign policy abroad. Open only to international studies majors with senior standing. This interdisciplinary course does not count toward the completion of any diversification requirement. No prerequisite. Offered every year.

Representative democracy came to be the most common form of government in Europe and the Americas in the 20th century. In the last half of the century, it became increasingly popular among the peoples of the rest of the world. Representative democracy takes many forms and confronts many challenges in its implementation. This course explores the institutional variety of representative democracy, the causes of political stability and instability in democratic regimes, and the possibility of successful creation of democratic regimes in countries in which the political culture has not traditionally supported democracy. Case studies may include the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Russia, Brazil and Mexico. This course is required for the major. Prerequisite: sophomore standing or first-year students currently enrolled in PSCI 102Y. Offered every year.

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