Skip to content Skip to navigation

Aaron Horvath

Aaron Horvath
A.B., Princeton University, 2010


I am a PhD candidate in the Stanford University Department of Sociology and am affiliated with the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (PACS).  My interests center on the coevolution of ideas, organizations, and people with a particular interest in the processes by which seemingly transgressive ideas become assimilated into or constitutive of social arrangements.

In my dissertation, I explore the ideals of rational government administration in the U.S. from the mid-19th to mid-20th century, a period that sees government administration evolve from machine politics to technocratic machines. This project explores an enduring tension of American politics: the simultaneous commitments to popular sovereignty and the dream of the rational, expert-run, Weberian state. Tracing the encounters between these ideals over time reveals their mutability, illuminating the evolving intellectual construct that is political authority.

In another project, Woody Powell and I are examining the social and historical processes by which ultra-rich philanthropists and their foundations — whose wealth and influence was once considered a serious threat to democracy — came to be regarded and celebrated as legitimate underwriters of public provision in the U.S. Through the process, the very meaning of philanthropy (the ways in which philanthropists understand their role within and seek to act upon society) undergoes considerable change.

Lastly, Woody Powell, Christof Brandtner, and I are conducting a longitudinal study of the San Francisco Bay Area nonprofit sector, seeking to understand how shifting ideas about management shape the ways in which nonprofits engage with and respond to their communities’ needs. Along with a team of international collaborators, we are currently broadening our lens beyond the Bay Area to include the Puget Sound, Shenzhen, Sydney, and Vienna nonprofit sectors.

Prior to Stanford, I received an undergraduate degree from Princeton University, and worked in public policy at the Urban Institute and Mathematica Policy Research. My free time revolves around bicycles, bookended by coffee, beer, and old time radio shows.