Ivan Ermakoff

Position title: Professor of Sociology

Email: ermakoff@ssc.wisc.edu

Phone: (608) 262-8206

8101 Sewell Social Science

Ivan Ermakoff, professor of sociology, teaches a Political Sociology class

Research Interest Statement:

My research agenda is centered on transition processes and collective situations in which individuals are confronted with decisions that challenge their sense of self-interest, preservation or identity. I have been investigating aristocrats facing new matrimonial regulations in Europe in the central middle ages, parliamentarians confronted with the prospect of their own collective abdication, political leaders devising strategies of political survival and/or democratic consolidation in times of democratic crisis, and civil servants confronted with the task of enforcing inhumane policies. In these different instances, to identify collective processes and reconstruct the specifics of the relevant empirical cases, I draw on multifaceted tools of analysis—formal, quantitative and hermeneutic—applied to a variety of historical sources. This approach combines historical research with a set of methods geared to probing the empirical soundness of hypotheses that can be transposed to different times and places.

Departmental Areas of Interest:

Class Analysis and Historical Change, Comparative-Historical Sociology, Organizational and Occupational Analysis, Political Sociology, General Social Theory, Economic Sociology, Social Movements and Collective Behavior


Soc 476 Contemporary Sociological Theory
Soc 624 Political Sociology
Soc 678 Sociology of Persecution
Soc 724 Intermediate Political Sociology
Soc 924 Political Processes

Other Campus Affiliations:


Center for Jewish Studies

Selected Publications:


Ermakoff, Ivan. 2008. Ruling Oneself Out. A Theory of Collective Abdications. Duke University Press.

2012 Lewis A. Coser Award for Theoretical Agenda Setting (American Sociological Association, Theory Section)

2010 European Academy of Sociology Best Book Award

2009 Barrington Moore Best Book Award (American Sociological Association, Comparative and Historical Sociology Section)

Edited Volume

Zalc, Claire, Tal Bruttmann, Ivan Ermakoff and Nicolas Mariot. 2012 Pour une microhistoire de la Shoah [Microhistory of the Holocaust]
Le Genre Humain
, Paris, Seuil.


Ermakoff, Ivan. 2020. “Law against the rule of law: Assaulting Democracy,” Journal of Law and Society, 47(3).

Ermakoff, Ivan. 2019. “Causality and History: modes of causal investigation in historical social sciences,” The Annual Review of Sociology 45.

Ermakoff, Ivan and Marko Grdesic. 2019. “Institutions and Demotions : Collective Leadership in Authoritarian Regimes,” Theory and Society 48(4): 559-587.

Ermakoff, Ivan. 2018. “Abdication and political collapse,” Politika : Encyclopedia of historical social sciences of politics. “Renoncement et effrondrement politique,” L’Encyclopédie des sciences historiques et sociales du politique.

Ermakoff, Ivan. 2018. “La micro-histoire au prisme de l’exception” [Micro-history through the prism of the exception]Vingtième Siècle, 139: 193-211.

Ermakoff, Ivan. 2017. “Cognition, Emotions and Collective Alignment: A Response to Collins,” American Journal of Sociology, 122(6): 284-291.

Ermakoff, Ivan. 2017. “Shadow Plays: On Theory’s Perennial Challenges,” Sociological Theory, 35(2): 128-137.

Ermakoff, Ivan. 2017. “Épistémologie de l’exception,” Sociétés Plurielles 1(1).

Ermakoff, Ivan. 2015.“The Structure of Contingency,” American Journal of Sociology, 121(1): 64-125.

2017 Charles Tilly Award (American Sociological Association, Comparative and Historical Sociology Section)
2016 Roger V. Gould Prize, awarded by the editorial board of the American Journal of Sociology

Ermakoff, Ivan. 2014. “Exceptional Cases: Epistemic contributions and Normative Expectations,” The European Journal of Sociology, November 2014, 55:(2): 223-243.

Ermakoff, Ivan. 2013. “Contingence historique et contiguïté des possibles” [Historical Contingency and contiguous possibilities]Tracés, 24: 23-45.

Ermakoff, Ivan. 2011. “Patrimony and collective capacity. An Analytical Outline,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, July 2011, 636: 182-203.

Ermakoff, Ivan. 2010. “Theory of Practice, Rational Choice and Historical Change,” Theory and Society, August 2010, 39: 527-553.

Ermakoff, Ivan. 2010. “Motives and Alignment,” Social Science History, Special Section: Politics, Collective Uncertainty, and the Renunciation of Power, Spring 2010, 34(1): 97-109.

Ermakoff, Ivan. 2008. “Patrimonial Rise and Decline. The Strange Case of The Familial State,” September 2008, Political Power and Social Theory, 19: 255-273.

Ermakoff, Ivan. 2001. “Strukturelle Zwänge und zufällige Geschehnisse” [Structural Constraints and Incidental Happenings], March 2001, Geschichte und Gesellschaft, Sonderheft 19: Struktur und Ereignis, pp. 224-256.

Ermakoff, Ivan. 1997. “Prelates and Princes: Aristocratic Marriages, Canon Law Prohibitions and Shifts in Norms and Patterns of Domination in the Central Middle Ages.” July 1997. American Sociological Review. 62:405-422.

1997 Reinhard Bendix Award (American Sociological Association, Comparative and Historical Sociology Section)
1997 Shils-Coleman Award (American Sociological Association, Theory Section)

Book Chapters

Ermakoff, Ivan. 2022. “Validation Strategies in Historical Sociology (and beyond),” Handbook of Rigorous Theoretical and Empirical Sociology, edited by Klarita Gërxhani, Nan Dirk de Graaf, and Werner Raub, Research Handbooks in Sociology Series. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar.

Ermakoff, Ivan. 2021. “Contingency and Randomness: A Modal Approach,” pp. 264-285 in Handbook of Analytical Sociology, edited by Gianluca Manzo. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar.

Ermakoff, Ivan. 2018. “Frail Democracy,” pp. 47-60 in Militant Democracy: Political Science, Law and Philosophy, edited by Afshin Ellian & Bastiaan Rijpkema. Wiesbaden: Springer.

Ermakoff, Ivan. 2017. “On the Frontiers of Rational Choice,” pp. 162-200 in Social Theory Now, edited by Claudio Benzecry, Monika Krause, and Isaac Ariail Reed. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Ermakoff, Ivan. 2016. “La causalité linéaire: Avatars et Critiques” [Linear Causality: Avatars and Critiques], pp. 393-413 in La Sociologie d’Andrew Abbott, edited by Morgan Jouvenet and Didier Demazière. Paris: Éditions de l’EHESS.

Ermakoff, Ivan. 2013. “Rational Choice may take over,” pp.89-107 in Bourdieu and Historical Analysis, edited by Philip Gorski, Duke University Press. 2013.

Ermakoff, Ivan. 2012. “Police et arrestations” [Police and Arrests], Le Genre Humain, 52: 215-244.

Tal Bruttmann, Ivan Ermakoff, Nicolas Mariot and Claire Zalc, 2012. “Changer d’échelle pour renouveler l’histoire de la Shoah” [Shifting Scales and Redirecting the History of the Holocaust]Le Genre Humain, 52: 11-15.


Burstin, Haim, Ivan Ermakoff, William H. Sewell, and Timothy Tackett. 2015. “Protagonisme et crises politiques : histoire et sciences sociales. Retours sur la Révolution française et février-juin 1848,” Politix, 28 (112) : 131-165.

Ermakoff, Ivan. 2009. “Comments on Evrigenis’ remarks. A critical exchange on Ruling Oneself Out,” Perspectives on Politics.

Ermakoff, Ivan. 1994. Preface to the French translation of The Truly Disadvantaged by Julius Wilson. Paris: Desclée de Brouwer.

Book Reviews

“What is an Event?” By Robin Wagner-Pacifici. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. Contemporary Sociology. March 2019, 48(2): 136-142.

“Strength in Numbers: The Political Power of Weak Interests.” By Gunnar Trumbull. Contemporary Sociology, January 2015, 44(2):268-9.

“Unlikely Collaboration: Gertrude Stein, Bernard Faÿ, and the Vichy Dilemma.” By Barbara Will. Columbia: Columbia University Press. The Journal of Modern History. June 2013, 85(2): 444-446.

“Preferences and Situations: Points of Intersection between Historical and Rational Choice Institutionalism.” Edited by Ira Katznelson and Barry R. Weingast. The American Journal of Sociology, July 2010, 116(1): 329-332.

Apocalypse by John R. Hall. Trajectories. Comparative and Historical Sociology. Newsletter of the ASA Comparative and Historical Sociology Section, 21 (1): 33-35, Fall 2009.

“The Fear of Enemies and Collective Action.” By Ioannis D. Evrigenis. Perspectives on Politics, March 2009, 7(1): 165-167.

“The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran.” By Charles Kurzman. The American Journal of Sociology, November 2007, 113(3): 879-881.

The Familial State: Ruling Families and Merchant Capitalism in Early Modern Europe by Julia Adams. Comparative and Historical Sociology. Newsletter of the ASA Comparative and Historical Sociology Section,Spring 2006, 17 (2): 12-14.

“The Sovereign State and Its Competitors: An Analysis of System Change.” By Hendrik Spruyt. The American Journal of Sociology, 1995. 3: 792-4.


Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, Cologne, May 2017: “On the Frontiers of Rational Choice”

University of Lausanne, Research Centre on Political Action (CRAPUL), December 2015: “Discussion des travaux d’Ivan Ermakoff”

École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), February 2015:“Ce que les crises sont (faire) aux sciences sociales”