Democracy. Democracy has been a goal of popular struggles throughout the modern era. In the late 20th century, it was widely viewed as the obvious path for progress in government. Today it is challenged not only by authoritarian regimes and other competitors but also by internal degenerations and upheavals.
The Future of the University. Higher education institutions have been transformed in recent decades by increased scale, hierarchy, and globalization. Both their funding and their internal structures have changed. So have their relations to other ‘knowledge institutions’ and to society more generally. This project asks what likely future trajectories are, and what it will take to choose well among these.
Understanding Corporations. Corporations play a distinctive and powerful role in contemporary large-scale social and economic organization. Yet they are poorly understood as social forms, poorly grasped by economics, and poorly appreciated in political theory. This project combines inquiry into the history of the corporation as form, contention over the legitimacy of corporations, and the place of corporations in large-scale socio-technical and economic systems.
The Human in Question. This projects explores the history, transformations, and potential challenges to what it means to be human. Challenges range from technological innovation (such as AI and genetic engineering), through cultural innovation (such as the rethinking of gender), and global diversity. I am particularly interested in ways in which taken for granted assumptions about the human may be unsettled and the consequences for related concerns, like human rights and humanitarianism or indeed for democratic citizenship.
Infrastructure. The development of material infrastructures has profoundly shaped the nature of modern society, yet it is poorly grasped in social theory. From transport, communications, and energy to water and waste management, to surveillance and data systems, infrastructure literally makes modern society possible. It is crucial to the capacity to sustain large-scale social integration, both in terms of intensity (cities) and extension (national and global relations). Through a collaboration with Hillary Angelo of UCSC, I am exploring how to integrate infrastructure into social theory, and on that basis how better to address major society challenges like climate change.
Forms of Solidarity. This is a long-term exploration of the different ways in which social solidarity is achieved. By this I mean both the social cohesion and integration suggested by Durkheim’s use of the term and the willed mutuality suggested by its use in social movements. The exploration includes many specific projects ranging from a small book on community as both ideal and material reality, analysis of the distinction and interplay of direct and indirect (mediated) relations, to an effort to give ‘fraternity’ equal attention with liberty and equality in democratic theory.
Cosmopolitanism, Nationalism, and Belonging. Already the focus of multiple books and articles, this is an effort to better theorize the relationship among different forms and scales of political recognition, loyalty, moral status, and social organization. A central theme is the contrast between categories of equivalence and relations of connection.