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The University of Southampton
Politics and International RelationsPart of Economic, Social and Political Science

Research Group: Political Theory

Currently Active: 

Politics & International Relations (PAIR) at the University of Southampton has always had a strong commitment to the study of Political Theory. Past staff include: Stanley I. Benn, Brian Barry, Raymond Plant, Ronald Beiner, Peter Johnson, Liam O’Sullivan, Chris Brown and Andrew Mason. This commitment continues today with eight PAIR staff working in the broad field of political theory as well as a number of colleagues in Law and Philosophy.

The Political Theory Research Group is distinctively wide-ranging in the plurality of methodological approaches to, and substantive interests, in political theory and political philosophy that it engages. Particular areas of research strength include:

Democratic theory

Global justice


International political theory (including just war theory)

Post-Kantian European and American political thought


Professor Chris Armstrong

Research profile

My work focuses on issues of justice and injustice in the global context. In 2008-09 I used a fellowship from the Leverhulme Trust to investigate challenges to, and the implications of, egalitarianism as an approach to global justice. In 2012-13 I was awarded a mid-career fellowship from the British Academy on the topic of ‘natural resources and global justice.’ During that time I was also a visiting fellow at the University of Uppsala’s Forum on Democracy, Peace and Justice, and the University of Oxford’s Centre for the Study of Social Justice. I am the author of Global Distributive Justice (Cambridge University Press, 2012), and Justice and Natural Resources: A Global Egalitarian Theory (forthcoming with Oxford University Press).

Current projects

Justice and natural resources

Claims over the resources of the oceans and the polar regions

The relevance of empirical debates (e.g. on the determinants of growth) for global justice

PhD supervision interests

Global justice; climate justice; territorial rights; egalitarian theory; distributive justice; citizenship; global governance and the world state; and environmental justice.

Professor Russell Bentley

Research Profile

My interests focus on realism, rhetoric, and political ethics. I am particularly interested in the problem of dirty hands in complex bureaucratic states, where the dispersion of political authority challenges conventional understandings of role morality, and in rhetoric and power in contemporary democratic circumstances, where citizens experience politics as spectators rather than as participants. My work is informed by accounts of rhetoric, ethics, and moral psychology in classical thought, as well as in contemporary theories of democracy and deliberation.

PhD Supervision Interests

Ancient political thought; contemporary democratic theory; realism; dirty hands, moral psychology; rhetoric.

Professor Christian Enemark

Research Profile

My research focuses on global health politics, international and global security, and the ethics of war. When inquiring into the security politics surrounding infectious disease challenges, I am interested in naturally-occurring disease outbreaks, the use of biological weapons by state and non-state actors, and the risks and benefits of laboratory research on pathogenic microorganisms. The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Australian Research Council have previously sponsored my work investigating policy challenges arising where health, security and ethics concerns intersect. Regarding the ethics of war, I am particularly interested in emerging military technologies and developments in Just War theory.

Current project(s)

Emergent ethics of drone violence

Biosecurity and global health

PhD supervision interests

Global health politics; Biological weapons; Ethics of armed conflict; Security theories and practices.

Dr Jonathan Havercroft

Research Profile

My research lies at the intersections of international relations and political theory. I have published work on the historical development and transformation of state sovereignty, 17th century and 20th century political philosophy, space weaponization and security, global dimensions of indigenous politics and hermeneutics. My book Captives of Sovereignty (Cambridge University Press, 2011) looks at the historical origins of state sovereignty, critiques its philosophical assumptions and offers a way to move contemporary critiques of sovereignty beyond their current impasse. I am currently co-editor of the journal Global Constitutionalism.

Current project(s)

Ethical dimensions of international norms

Theories of political affect

The role of agreement in democratic theory and practice.

PhD supervision interests

International relations theory and political theory (especially projects that lie at the intersection of these two fields); theories of sovereignty; theories of violence; the political philosophy of Hobbes and Spinoza; language and politics; contemporary French theory.

Professor David Owen

Research Profile

My research spans three main areas: Nietzsche and post-Kantian critical theory encompassing post-structuralism and the Frankfurt School; Problems of Political Community addressing issues of multiculturalism and migration; and Democratic Theory ranging from foundational to policy-relevant levels of analysis. My most recent books are Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morality (Acumen, 2007) and two co-edited volumes Multiculturalism and Political Theory (Cambridge University Press 2007) and Recognition and Power (Cambridge University Press, 2007). I am co-editor of the Critical Powers book series for Manchester University Press and of Citizenship Transitions for Palgrave Macmillan as well as Associate Editor at European journal of Political Theory. In recent years I have been Visiting Professor of Politics (2000 & 2008) and of Philosophy (2010) at the Goethe University, Frankfurt.

Current Projects

The political theory of global migration governance.

Cosmopolitanism in one country.

Nietzsche and contemporary social and political thought.

PhD supervision interests

Kantian and Post-Kantian social and political philosophy, democratic theory, citizenship, and normative theories of migration.

Dr Ben Saunders

Research Profile

My research has always straddled the boundaries between politics and philosophy since my first degree in PPE at Jesus College, Oxford. I am interested in most areas of analytic political philosophy, including its history, but I have worked, in particular, on various issues in democratic theory and the moral and political thought of John Stuart Mill. My work has been supported by grants from the AHRC, Mind Association, and Royal Society of Edinburgh. I am an Associate Editor at Res Publica.

Current Projects

The ethics of voting

Justifying paternalism

Reproductive ethics

PhD Supervision Interests

Democratic theory; J. S. Mill; liberalism and state action; normative and applied ethics.

Professor Tracy Strong

Research Profile

I have broad interests in political theory and in related fields in political science, aesthetics and literature. My books include Friedrich Nietzsche and the Politics of Transfiguration (currently in its third edition); The Idea of Political Theory: Reflections on the Self in Political Time and Space; and Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the Politics of the Ordinary (second edition). My most recent book Politics Without Vision: Thinking without a Banister in the Twentieth Century (Chicago, 2012) was awarded the David Easton Prize, 2013. I am currently on a Leverhulme Trust fellowship and previously have been the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Rockefeller Foundation, Visiting Professor at the Juan March Instituto in Spain and Warwick University in England, and was a Fellow at the Center for Human Values, Princeton University (2002-03). From 1990 until 2000 I was Editor of Political Theory.

Current Projects

American citizenship

Music, language, and politics from Rousseau to Nietzsche

PhD Supervision Interests

Political Thought since the 15th Century with particular interests in 19th and 20th century political theory.

In Law and Philosophy

Professor Oren Ben-Dor

My writings are in the philosophy of law, political and general philosophy.  I pursue three interlinked areas, all of which attempt to articulate the legal and political condition of humans in the Western philosophical tradition: a) the relationship between ethics (goodness) and ontology (being) especially in relation to language, truthfulness, law and the limits of practical reason; b) ecology, in particular the temporal, material and political/legal conditions that characterize the human/mortal condition as an instantiation of nature; c) the relationship between Greek, Jewish and Eastern thinking. I am currently working on a book in philosophy that investigates the notion of place and its relationship to practical wisdom as well as on a book about the relationship between Political Zionism and the Jewish Question.


Dr Alex Gregory

I work primarily in ethics, especially metaethics and moral psychology. But I also have interests in many other areas of philosophy, including political philosophy, philosophy of mind, and metaphysics. My present research largely focuses on two different issues. First, on the role that our personal preferences play in explaining and justifying our choices, and related questions about moral motivation and reasons for action. Second, I am now developing new work on the nature of disability, including its relationship to wellbeing.

Dr Alun Gibbs

My principal area of research is in the field of constitutional theory. Currently, my work involves advancing a theoretical understanding of constitutional adjudication based upon hermeneutic philosophy. I am also currently engaged in a project looking at the relationship between transitional justice and constitutional law.

Dr Brian McElwee

My main research interests are in moral philosophy and normative ethics with particular interests in debates on the demandingness of morality and supererogation, virtue and character, consequentialism and utilitarianism, and John Stuart Mill.

Dr Sasha Mudd

My primary research interest is in the philosophy of Immanuel Kant and its legacy, especially the problem of normativity and naturalism in the post-Kantian tradition. As a British Academy Newton Advanced Fellow, I co-direct with Dr. Lucas Thorpe (Bogazici University) a project entitled: "Agency and Autonomy: Kant and the Normative Foundations of Republican Self-Government." The project investigates Kant's contribution to republican political philosophy in light of his understanding of autonomy and human agency.

Dr Fiona Woollard

I have research interests in normative ethics, applied ethics and the philosophy of sex and pregnancy.  My publications focus on topics including the distinction between doing and allowing harm, climate change and the non-identity problem, the moral significance of numbers, pornography and the norm of monogamy.

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