Manchester Centre for Political Theory (MANCEPT)
MANCEPT provides an active forum for education, and research in political theory and philosophy, building on a long tradition of international excellence in political theory.
MANCEPT is one of the largest and strongest groupings in analytical political theory in the UK.
Its core membership includes all members of staff currently teaching and researching in aspects of political theory, and all graduate students working on doctoral dissertations in political theory and philosophy. The Centre also engages with numerous scholars with cognate interests from other parts of the University.
Members' research interests range over philosophical, normative, positive and historical aspects of political theory.
MANCEPT organises a seminar series, as well as fostering discussion on particular topics through specialised workshops, reading groups and seminars and one-day conferences involving MANCEPT members and visiting speakers such as Peter Vallentyne (Missouri-Columbia), Russell Hardin (NYU), Geoffrey Brennan (ANU), Jeff McMahan (Rutgers), Stephen Darwell (Michigan) and Joseph Raz (Oxford and Columbia).
MANCEPT members are also active in organising occasional conferences – such as the 2007 conference on 'Disability and Disadvantage' involving (among others) Dan Brock (Harvard), Leslie Francis (Utah), and Douglas MacLean (UNC) and supported by an AHRC award, and the 2008 annual conference of the Society for Applied Philosophy involving (among others) C.A.J. Coady (Melbourne), George Sher (Rice), Jerry Gaus (Arizona), and Richard Dagger (Arizona).
Staff and postgraduate research is disseminated through the MANCEPT working papers series and members of MANCEPT are active is presenting their work at seminars and conferences nationally and internationally, as well as through publication. MANCEPT also encourages the work of graduate students, for example by sponsoring an annual international postgraduate conference - Brave New World.
Supervisors: Jon Quong and Alan Hamlin
My thesis concerns a debate over the distinction between, and usefulness of, "ideal" and "non-ideal" approaches to issues in ethics and political philosophy. Ideal theory is characterized by its critics as being so insensitive to crucial facts about "the real world" that it becomes practically useless (or even counterproductive) when it comes to figuring out how we ought to behave here and now. In the first section of my thesis I aim to explore these criticisms and (hopefully) offer a defence of ideal theory's role in normative theorizing. I hope to establish that one of the most useful aspects of ideal theory is that it allows us to compare the ideal world to the world we live in, in order to illuminate the sorts of constraints which make the former difficult to achieve. From here, I aim to investigate the extent to which we may have moral obligations to uncover, minimize and/or eliminate these constraints, in the hope of articulating principles which can help to guide us in the transition from the non-ideal world we find ourselves in, to a world which more closely resembles the ideal.
Supervisors: Jon Quong and Tom Porter
My PhD is based around the work of John Taurek and his work on the number problem - whether the interests of the many should always prevail at the expense of the few in cases such as trolley problems. I argue that it is possible to conceive of a weighted or proportional lottery solution which treats the problem as a matter of procedural fairness when all other considerations are either perfectly or roughly in balance. If a choice between two individuals is best solved by tossing a fair coin (following Taurek), I contend that a fully ordered series of individual coin flips can explain the result of the weighted lottery in cases where the numbers do not balance. This explanation satisfies both the Taurekian requirement of non-aggregative individualism and the strictest possible interpretation of Scanlon's making a difference principle. My intention is to present a comprehensive theoretical defence of this position in the first half of my thesis before moving to address the challenging practical implications of the theory, particularly in matters of educational policy and bio-ethics.
Supervisors:Tom Porter and John O'Neill
How are freedom, equality and private property rights related?
Liberal political philosophies commonly claim that negative freedom and equality of outcome are fundamentally irreconcilable. I hope to show that the liberal claim is based on a presupposition of extensive private property rights. My central claim is that freedom, equality and private property rights exist in a tripartite relationship such that they are all potentially consistent in some degree, but to the extent that any of them is realized the others will be restricted. Private property is a hidden variable in this relationship and inhibits the compatibility of freedom and equality. If this is correct then it may be possible to increase the extent to which freedom and equality can be realized in conjunction by restricting the extent of private property rights.
Supervisors Steve de Wijze and Andrew Russell
Citizen Expectations and Deliberative Democracy
Democratic political theory makes a number of assumptions with regard to the expected behaviour of its citizens; in particular it assumes that they will act rationally in pursuit of their own particular conception of the good. My thesis seeks to explore whether such assumptions can remain valid when set against a background context of a technologically advanced market economy, suggesting that this may lead citizens to have expectations of the democratic system that cannot be realised. As a result, there may be a blindspot in democratic theory in failing to adequately account for phenomena such as voter apathy or decreasing confidence in democratic institutions. However, I wish to argue that a deliberative conception of democracy may prove to be superior at dealing with increased demands from citizens, as the process of deliberation will encourage an outward orientation within citizens that provides them with a better understanding of the limits of collective action.
Supervisors Jon Quong and Tom Porter
Rawlsians argue that when societies distribute their benefits and burdens in accordance with certain egalitarian rules their members are each advantaged relative to a reasonable baseline. I am going to argue that this is wrong. Rawlsians also claim that certain egalitarian rules are publicly justifiable to persons who disagree on wide-ranging religious and philosophical issues. I am going to argue that, whether or not these rules advantage these persons relative to a reasonable baseline, this is also wrong.
Supervisors: Angelia Wilson
Theoretically this thesis will apply Judith Butler's concept of ‘liveability’ to the area of sex work policy, asking whether or not this frame is enacted within current policy initiatives. To do this, my empirical research will explore the 'frames' enacted at the coalface of sex work policy. I plan to interview organizations working across the multi-agency forum in the North West, especially those who are administering health, well-being, and other practical services to the sex work community, in order to explore the dynamics of these complex framing processes.
Non-Consequentialist Approach to Solve The Humanitarian Dilemma
Read more about Wen-Chin's research
Supervisors Jon Quong and Steve de Wijze
My thesis examines the debate on how a modern liberal democracy can justify its actions to its citizens. Studying the interplay between morality and democracy, I propose an answer to whether a balance between perfectionist enlightened rule and neutral political concern can be achieved in both a stable and coherent manner. Further I am looking at what implications such a position will hold for the modern liberal debates.
Supervisors Jon Quong and James Pattison
My project aims to address the question of what it actually means for a person to be exploited. I am centrally concerned to ask what is responsible for the likely injustice faced by specific groups and what would bring about the opposite of this, procedures of justice that would allow for equal freedom and equal rights. I seek to draw from a coalition of the very important and enduring insights that both the Left libertarian and Rawlsian approaches have put on the table, a depiction of key elements from within a liberal egalitarian spectrum. By conjoining the two approaches, I wish to advance a new account of exploitation, one that draws on existing Rawlsian and Left libertarian ideas, but is original in the way that it fuses these ideas. Although this framework will be formulated at rather an abstract level, the underlying aim is to develop a global economic standard to ensure that when individuals engage in trade, it is done on terms that are free and fair.
Supervisors Jon Quong and Tom Porter
Responsibility and Global Justice: Agency, Control, and International Distributive Justice.
Ideas about individual responsibility have been widely explored in political philosophy. My doctoral thesis will explore the role of the concept of collective responsibility in theorising about global justice. By invoking my ideas about responsibility in opposition to those who see no moral problem in treating illiberal regimes, which deny some citizens equal social and economic rights, as collectively responsible entities, I aim to construct a unified account of our duties to citizens and outsiders that moves beyond the Cosmopolitan and Statist approaches to global justice. Holding groups collectively responsible, where relationships of domination prevail, violates the liberal egalitarian ideal that we should only hold people responsible for their choices and not their circumstances. I intend to argue that interaction within groups in which membership is in a significant sense involuntary, such as the nation-state, requires particular inter-personal social freedoms that act as a substratum unifying individual wills in a manner that makes the practice of holding them collectively responsible morally defensible.
Supervisors Jon Quong and Tom Porter
Justice For Children: The Role of Education and Upbringing in Liberal Political Thought
Liberalism has always had particular difficulties dealing with justice for children, difficulties which have not been surmounted and still provoke vast disagreement amongst liberal academics. It is my goal to provide a compelling answer to the question of what we should do for children, and also thereby strengthen the theory of liberal justification upon which I build my case. My thesis is based upon the simple premise that children should be considered as future adults. I argue that we can work out what we owe children (and what children owe adults) from understanding how liberals conceive of adults when justifying principles. The first part of my thesis will expound this thought and advance principles of upbringing alongside a particular understanding of neutral liberal justification. The second part of my thesis will look more closely at the relationship between the purpose of political philosophy, liberal justification and the 'real world'. I shall then be able to suggest the institutions and policies which liberal societies would do well to implement, given the principles outlined in the first part of my thesis.
Supervisors Jon Quong and Tom Porter
Does it Matter What the People Think?
In my thesis I ask whether normative theorists ought to take into account, during their deliberations over the political principles that should govern our lives, what the people to whom those principles will apply think about them. That is, should theorists require any knowledge of people’s judgements about justice? Or, does it matter what the people think? It’s unconventional for philosophers to begin their moral enquiries by seeking data on public opinion. However, within the political philosophy, general support for concepts such as autonomy and democracy—and disapproval of coercion and paternalism—suggest the existence of a widespread intuition on the part of political philosophers that, in some sense, people’s views are important. One explanation for this is the idea that it is valuable for people to exercise their capacity for a sense of right and wrong. If philosophers wish to respect this value whilst developing principles of justice, then it seems possible that they will need some knowledge of people’s judgements. It is unclear, however, what the role of their judgements should be in the development of principles of justice.
Freedom and Ecology
Environmentalists make moral claims that act as side-constraints. If I want to achieve X, and find environmentalist arguments convincing, I am restricted in the means I can employ to do so. They argue that at least some of these demands are so strong that people who do not themselves accept the moral force of these green moral claims should nevertheless be forced by the state to behave as if they did. I consider the effect that accepting such claims on theories of justice based on a hypothetical social contract, and argue that such theories must, if they are to accommodate environmental demands, sacrifice either their commitment to liberty or to equality. I then attempt to construct and defend a form of "green libertarianism" as an alternative that protects liberty while also being consistent with those forms of left-libertarianism that require significant redistribution on egalitarian grounds.