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 work centers on the dynamic interactions between ideas, organizational forms, and organizational practices.

In my dissertation, I explore how emergent theories of public administration shaped collective understandings and practices of democracy in the United States from the mid-19th and mid-20th century – a period that sees government administration transform from machine politics to technocratic machines. Over this period, reformers, scholars, politicians, and the public attempt to navigate and resolve an enduring tension of America politics: the simultaneous commitments to popular sovereignty and the dream of the rationalist, apolitical, expertly administered state. Tracing the encounters between these ideals over time reveals their mutability, illuminating the evolving moral and pragmatic content of political authority.
In another project, Woody Powell and I are examining the social and historical processes by which ultra-rich philanthropists and their foundations came to be celebrated as legitimate underwriters of public provision in the U.S. Our aim is to explain how 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 have been conducting a longitudinal study of the San Francisco Bay Area nonprofit sector, seeking to understand how shifting ideas about management shape how 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.