Department of Political Science


James Shafe

PhD Candidate in Political Science

James Shafe

Thesis Title

Utilitarian Public Reason


James is researching the demands that liberal democracies should make of their citizens when they debate certain important questions: what Rawls called “constitutional essentials and matters of basic justice”., His thesis takes Bentham’s work on institutional reform and ethics as a template to test whether a consequentialist response to this question of “public reason” could provide a viable alternative to dominant rights-based liberal accounts. This question is especially interesting because, for obvious reasons, consequentialists typically deny the “right to justification” on which many contemporary public reason accounts are based.


James studied PPE at Pembroke College, Oxford and holds an MA in Legal and Political Theory from UCL’s School of Public Policy. He has done research for think tanks including the Fabian Society and has several years’ experience as a public affairs consultant for a variety of large financial services providers. He currently works as a teaching assistant at King’s College London on its undergraduate Modern Political Thought course.

James’ research is funded by an AHRC scholarship.

General Research Interests

  • Consequentialism
  • Liberalism and neutrality
  • Contemporary liberalism and deliberative democratic theory
  • Bentham studies, and related debates in the history of ideas