Theoretical political economy

We consider the theoretical principles of fairness, distributional justice, environmental and social sustainability, equality and freedom upon which political-economic orders ought to be based and their relationship to the contemporary political and economic institutions which shape capitalist social relations.

These debates bring the group into engagement with some of the eminent figures of the discipline, including Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Friedrich Hayek, Karl Polanyi, John Maynard Keynes and Milton Friedman who deliberated the philosophical and normative foundations of economic structures.

Current work encompasses research on the theoretical approaches of the Vienna Circle and the socialist calculation debate, the meaning of price and value, gender, rational choice economics, neo-Gramscianism. Empirical subjects being investigated include agricultural production, neo-colonial international relations, and the processes of European integration which expose a myriad of unjust relationships.

This research area is led by Prof John O'Neil. Please contact him directly if you would like to join the group and/or be informed about relevant events in this area.


  • John O’Neill – John's research interests lie in philosophical and ethical underpinnings of the global economy, the limits of market governance, environmental unsustainability, the socialist calculation debates, and the philosophy of science.
  • Greig Charnock – Greig’s research is associated with the 'Open Marxism' approach to political economy. He has engaged the approach with theories of the 'production of space'.
  • Dr Adrienne Roberts - Adrienne is attuned to the gendered dynamics of political economy structures and zones in how these are manifested in finance and debt-driven models of development, state policy, and processes of social reproduction.
  • Liam Shields – Liam’s work partly examines the equality of opportunity and work, and questions about the fair distribution of various benefits and burdens, such as rights, opportunities, wealth and well-being.
  • Karen Sykes - From a social anthropology perspective, Karen analyses youth and child labour, moral economy, and questions of value.
  • Penny Harvey – Penny’s interests lie in cross-section of politics, gender, history, language, and social anthropology. Recent publications have focused on the innovative collective responses to neoliberal statecraft and precarity in Latin America.
  • Japhy Wilson – Japhy explores the entanglement of space, power and ideology in the politics of development. Through drawing on historical-geographical materialism and the critique of ideology, his work narrates the profoundly contradictory ways in which the spaces of global capitalism are imagined, produced, and transformed.
  • Philipp Roessner – Philipp offers a historical perspective on the development of political economy in the early modern period, with a focus on Scotland, England and Germany in particular.
  • Harrison Ozanne – Based in the Economics department, Harrison criticises the neglect of power in neoclassical economics. His book, entitled "Power and Neoclassical Economics", was published in January 2016 and since he has sought to formalise his approach to modelling power relationships in a general equilibrium framework and apply these findings to analyses of agricultural development.
  • Christian Scholz Alvarado – Christian has interests lie in both the institutional foundations of a 'reasonable economic order' and the political economy of European integration throughout the current period of crisis.
  • Jonathan Benson – Jonny’s research is concerned with the epistemic dimension of democratic politics and legitimacy. This refers to the ways in which democracy represents not only a set of fair procedures for taking political decisions but also a set of institutions for social problem-solving which can achieve positive outcomes. His current research project compares deliberative models of democracy with a number of alternative institutional forms (such as markets, economic calculation, and expert decision-making), in order to investigate the extent to which they can ground democratic legitimacy.
  • Thomas Uebel – Thomas’s work centres upon the left-Vienna Circle and the economic thought of Otto Neurath. He is also interested in the foundations of ecological economics, the early history of Austrian economics and the liberal philosophy of Karl Menger.
  • Hillel Steiner - The main focus of Hillel’s research is contemporary philosophical work on freedom, rights and social justice. His major work is An Essay on Rights which advances a theory of distributive justice that has come to be known as left-libertarianism.
  • Nicola Mulkeen – Nicola’s account of exploitation is rooted in a fusion of Rawlsian and Left libertarian ideas. She is centrally concerned with the procedures of justice which would allow a trade to be rendered free and fair.