Department of Political Science


Professor Albert Weale

Albert Weale
Emeritus Professor of Political Theory and Public Policy
Tel: 020 7679 4993 (ext. 24993)
Email: a.weale@ucl.ac.uk


I was born in Brighton in 1950, and in 1968 won a place at Clare College Cambridge, where I read Theology. After graduating in 1971, my original intention had been to write a thesis on the philosophical theology of Paul Tillich, but I became absorbed by questions in political philosophy and the philosophy of the social sciences and I wrote a thesis on Equality and Social Policy. I was fortunate that my supervisor at the time, Dorothy Emmet, was an expert both in philosophy of religion and in the philosophy of the social sciences, and she was crucial in my being able to make the transition from one field to the other.

I have worked in the intersection of political theory and public policy. In political theory, my main contemporary intellectual influences have been John Rawls and H. L. A. Hart, and in the history of political thought John Stuart Mill and Henry Sidgwick. In public policy, I have been particularly interested in understanding the intellectual paradigms that policy makers use, sometimes unconsciously, when making decisions, particularly in health policy and environmental policy. 


My most recent book is Modern Social Contract Theory (Oxford University Press, 2020), which is a product of an ECRC Professorial Fellowship I held between 2009 and 2011. In the book, I explore the variety of forms that modern social contract theory has taken, examining their plausibility and coherence. The book forms a ‘prequel’ to Democratic Justice and the Social Contract (Oxford University Press, 2013). 

Over a number of years, I have worked on democracy and democratic theory, the key text of which is Democracy (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), a much revised and expanded version of a book originally published in 1999. In 2018, I published The Will of the People: A Modern Myth (Polity Press), which was intended as an intervention in public debate exposing the political misuse of a fictitious idea. I am currently planning some work on democracy over time.

Selected publications

  • Democratic Justice and the Social Contract (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), pp. xxi+302.
  • The Will of the People: A Modern Myth (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2018), pp. 110.
  • Modern Social Contract Theory (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020).
Journal articles
  • 'Reforming the public health system in England' (with David J. Hunter Peter Littlejohns), Lancet Public Health; 7:9 (2022), pp. e797-e800.
  • ‘Is Rule by Majorities Special?’ (with Hugh Ward), Political Studies, 58:1 (2010), pp. 26-46.
  • ‘Co-Payments in the NHS: An Analysis of the Normative Arguments’ (with Sarah Clark), Health Economics, Policy and Law, 5:2 (2010), pp. 225-46.
  • ‘New Modes of Governance, Political Accountability and Public Reason’, Government and Opposition, 46: 1 (2011), pp.58-80.
  • 'In A Different Parliamentary Voice?' (with Aude Bicquelet and Judith Bara), Gender and Politics, 8: 1 (2012), pp. 83-121.
  • 'Social Values in Health Priority Setting: A Conceptual Framework', (with Sarah Clark) Journal of Health Organization and Management, 23: 6, (2012) pp. 293-316.
  • ‘Debating Abortion, Deliberative Reciprocity and Parliamentary Advocacy’ (with Aude Bicquelet and Judith Bara), Political Studies, 60: 3 (2012), pp. 643-67.
  • ‘The Right to Health versus Good Medical Care?’  Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, 15: 4 (2012), pp. 473-93.
  • ‘The Property-Owning Democracy versus the Welfare State’, Analyse und Kritik, 35: 1, (2013), pp. 37-54.
  • ‘Political Legitimacy and European Monetary Union: Contracts, Constitutionalism and the Normative Logic of Two-Level Games’ (with Richard Bellamy), Journal of European Public Policy, 22: 3, (2015), pp. 257-74.
  • ‘Dilemmas of Political Legitimacy in the European Union: A Contractarian Analysis’, European Politics and Society, 18: 3, (2016), pp. 348-62 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/23745118.2016.1231453.
  • ‘Associative Obligations and the Social Contract’, Philosophia, 45:2, (2017) pp. 463-76. DOI 10.1007/s11406-016-9797-5.
  • ‘Public Reasoning and Health Care Priority Setting: The Case of NICE’, (with Benedict Rumbold, Peter Littlejohns, Annette Rid and James Wilson), Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal, 27: 1, (2017) pp. 107-34.

View a full list of publications


In 2021-22 I shall be co-teaching the second-year course ‘Ethics and Public Policy’, which I convene, and the postgraduate ‘Health Policy and Reform’.