My first book, Redeeming the Communist Past (2002), analyzes the paradox of the communist successor parties in East Central Europe: incompetent as authoritarian rulers of the communist party-state, several then succeeded as democratic competitors after the collapse of these communist regimes in 1989. Elite portable skills and usable pasts acquired under authoritarian rule allowed these parties to reinvent themselves as capable democrats.
Rebuilding Leviathan (2007) investigates the role of political parties and party competition in the reconstruction of the post-communist state. Unless checked by a robust competition, democratic governing parties simultaneously rebuilt the state and ensured their own survival by building in enormous discretion into new state institutions.
My third book project, Nations Under God (2015) examines why some churches have been able to wield enormous policy influence. Others have failed to do so, even in very religious countries. Where religious and national identities have historically fused, churches gained great moral authority, and subsequently covert and direct access to state institutions. It is this institutional access, rather than either partisan coalitions or electoral mobilization, that allows some churches to become so powerful.
My most recent book, Sacred Foundations (2023) argues that the roots of the European state lie in the medieval era, when the Catholic Church both challenged the authority of secular rulers and provided critical templates for administration, taxation, the rule of law, and national assemblies.