Gad Barzilai is best known for his critical analysis of law as a dimension in political power, which should be understood through using combined methodology of socio-political-legal studies. His work emphasizes the importance of political elite, critical communitarianism, legal pluralism, cultural relativism and political power in local, state and global sites.
Barzilai was born on January 11, 1958 in Tel Aviv from family of Holocaust survivors. He studied History, Judaism and Political Science at Bar-Ilan University, Law at Tel Aviv University and in 1987 he received his PhD in political science from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem which awarded him several prestigious prizes including Fulbright. After completing his PhD and LLB [JD] he studied quantitative research methods at University of Michigan, Ann-Arbor, and completed a post-doc in comparative politics at Yale University.
He served as a professor at Tel Aviv University in the political science department and law school. Barzilai was the First Founding Director (1999-2002) of the newly established international Dan David Prize, which is among the three large Prize foundations in the world, bestowing international prizes and scholarships for academic and scientific international excellence. In 2005 he moved to University of Washington where he is currently a professor in the Law, Societies, and Justice Program, Comparative Law and Society Studies Center, and in the Jackson School of International Studies. Barzilai was the Co-Founder and Co-Chair of the Israeli Association of Law and Society; Board Member of the Law and Society Association (Class 2006), Board Member of the American Journal of Political Science (1998-2003), Board Member of the Association of Israel Studies (1993-1996, 2007- ), Board Member of Israel Studies Forum (2004- ), and Board Member of the Journal of Comparative Studies (2006- ). He is active in international, Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian human rights organizations and has advised senior politicians and NGOs on issues of law and politics.