Department of Political Science


Dr Jeffrey Howard

Associate Professor of Political Theory
Room: 1.02, 31 Tavistock Sq
Telephone: 0203 108 6939
Email: jeffrey.howard@ucl.ac.uk

Jeffrey Howard is Associate Professor of Political Theory at UCL’s Department of Political Science and School of Public Policy. He works on topics in contemporary political and legal philosophy, focusing on freedom of speech, criminal punishment, and democracy. He earned his doctorate at Oxford University, where he studied at Nuffield College, and his undergraduate degree at Harvard University.

During the 2020-2021 academic year, Dr Howard will pursue a Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship, undertaking a book project on the topic of dangerous speech. He was recently named a BBC/AHRC New Generation Thinker, and he has also received the British Academy’s Rising Star Award. 

At UCL he has earned the Award for Educational Leadership in the Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences, and, on two occasions, the Prize for Outstanding Faculty Teaching in the School of Public Policy. At the University of Essex, where he taught in the Department of Government prior to joining UCL, he won the Student Union Award for Best Lecturer at the University.


Dr Howard writes on a variety of moral challenges facing citizens and policymakers. His central intellectual concern is the fragility of our moral capacities, and the ways in which other agents (including political institutions) can support or undermine those capacities. He has written on the nature of free speech and its limits, the proper role of rehabilitation in criminal punishment, the ethics of police entrapment operations, the justification of democracy, the morality of paying ransoms to terrorists, and many other topics. He has published in several journals including Philosophy & Public Affairs, Journal of Political Philosophy, Law and Philosophy, British Journal of Political Science, and Annual Review of Political Science. He regularly appears on radio and television outlets to discuss ethical questions that arise in public affairs.

His future research seeks to accomplish three large tasks: (1) identify the moral and appropriate legal responsibilities of social media companies to combat the many varieties of harmful content online; (2) argue for a radically reduced role of incarceration as a technique of criminal punishment; and (3) specify the ethics of political discourse between citizens who disagree fundamentally about political morality.

  • “Terror, Hate, and the Demands of Counter-Speech,” British Journal of Political Science, online early view: DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S000712341900053X
  • “Yaffe on Democratic Citizenship and Juvenile Justice,” Criminal Law & Philosophy, online early view: DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11572-019-09508-6
  • “Defending Broad Neutrality,” Critical Review of International Social & Political Philosophy 23, 1 (2020): 36-47.
  • “Dangerous Speech,” Philosophy & Public Affairs 47, 2 (2019): 208-254.
  • “Free Speech and Hate Speech,” Annual Review of Political Science 22 (2019): 93-109.
  • “The Labors of Justice: Democracy, Respect, and Judicial Review,” Critical Review of International Social & Political Philosophy 22, 2 (2019): 176-199.
  • “Kidnapped: The Ethics of Paying Ransoms,” The Journal of Applied Philosophy 35, 4 (2018): 675-688.
  • “Punishment as Moral Fortification,” Law & Philosophy 36, 1 (2017): 45-75.
  • “Moral Subversion and Structural Entrapment,” The Journal of Political Philosophy 24, 1 (2016): 24-46.
  • “The Instability of Democratic Contractarianism,” Political Studies Review 13, 2 (2015): 184-195.
  • “Democracy as the Search for Justice: A Defence of the Democracy/Contractualism Analogy,” Political Studies 63, 1 (2015): 259-275.
  • “Punishment, Socially Deprived Offenders, and Democratic Community,” Criminal Law and Philosophy 7, 1 (2013): 121-136. 

Details of further publications available here


Note: On research leave during the 2020-2021 academic year.

Undergraduate Courses

  • Justice: Moral Foundations of Politics (autumn 2019)
  • Ethics of Crime and Punishment (autumn 2017, autumn 2018, spring 2020)
  • Normative Methods (autumn 2016)

Graduate Courses

  • The Ethics of Counter-Terrorism (spring 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020)
  • Public Ethics (autumn 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018)
  • Equality, Justice, and Difference (spring 2016)


I am currently primary or secondary supervisor to various PhD dissertations on a range of topics in contemporary political philosophy. I particularly welcome applications from students working on issues related to freedom of speech, criminal punishment, and the ethics of democratic discourse.