Margaret Levi earned her BA from Bryn Mawr College in 1968 and her PhD from Harvard University in 1974, the year she joined the faculty of the University of Washington. She became a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2001 and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow in 2002. She served as president of the American Political Science Association from 2004 to 2005. In 2014 she received the William H. Riker Prize in Political Science.
She is the Director of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS) at Stanford and Professor of Political Science, Stanford University, and Jere L. Bacharach Professor Emerita of International Studies in the Department of Political Science at the University of Washington. She has been a Senior Fellow at the Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University. She held the Chair in Politics, United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, 2009-13 and is currently an Affiliate Professor there. At the University of Washington she was director of the CHAOS (Comparative Historical Analysis of Organizations and States) Center and formerly the Harry Bridges Chair and Director of the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies.
Levi is the author or coauthor of numerous articles and six books, including Of Rule and Revenue (University of California Press, 1988); Consent, Dissent, and Patriotism (Cambridge University Press, 1997); Analytic Narratives (Princeton University Press, 1998); and Cooperation Without Trust? (Russell Sage, 2005). Her most recent book, In the Interest of Others (Princeton, 2013), co-authored with John Ahlquist, explores how organizations provoke member willingness to act beyond material interest. In other work, she investigates the conditions under which people come to believe their governments are legitimate and the consequences of those beliefs for compliance, consent, and the rule of law. Her research continues to focus on how to improve the quality of government. She is also committed to understanding and improving supply chains so that the goods we consume are produced in a manner that sustains both the workers and the environment.
She is general editor of Cambridge Studies in Comparative Politics and co-general editor of the Annual Review of Political Science. Levi serves on the boards of the: Social Science Research Council (SSRC); Institute For Advanced Study; Center for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (CEACS) in Madrid; and Scholar and Research Group of the World Justice Project. Levi and her husband, Robert Kaplan, are avid collectors of Australian Aboriginal art. Ancestral Modern, an exhibition drawn from their collection, was on view at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) in 2012. Yale University Press and SAM co-published the catalogue.Her fellowships include the Woodrow Wilson in 1968, German Marshall in 1988-9, and the Center for Advanced Study of the Behavioral Sciences in 1993-1994. She has lectured and been a visiting fellow at the Australian National University, the European University Institute, the Max Planck Institute in Cologne, the Juan March Institute, the Budapest Collegium, Cardiff University, Oxford University, Bergen University, and Peking University.