Prof Adam Swift
Professor of Political Theory/Political Philosophy
Dept of Political Science
Faculty of S&HS
- Joined UCL
- 24th Sep 2018
I work on a wide range of issues in political theory, and with a wide range of collaborators. In recent years I have come to specialize in debates around equality of opportunity, education and the family.
I am currently working on a collaborative project based at the University of Warwick – Faith Schools: Principles and Policies –funded by the Spencer Foundation. This combines philosophical and empirical research to explore the principles that should guide states in the regulation of religious schooling and the policy implications of those principles in particular contexts.
My first book - Liberals and Communitarians (with Stephen Mulhall), (Blackwell 1992, 2nd edition, 1996) – offers an overview of the debate between liberals and their communitarian critics. It provides accessible summaries of various key players – Rawls, Dworkin, Raz, Sandel, MacInture, Walzer, Taylor, Rorty – and an analytical framework for assessing their various claims.
My involvement in the UK team on the International Social Justice Project resulted in Against the Odds? Social Class and Social Justice in Industrial Societies (with Gordon Marshall and Stephen Roberts), (Oxford University Press, 1997). This brings together normative theories of social justice and concepts of meritocracy with empirical data on social mobility in 13 countries. The team also produced various articles on popular perceptions of, and attitudes to, social justice and on the normative significance of popular opinion.
Having written an accessible introduction to political philosophy - Political Philosophy: A Beginners’ Guide for Students and Politicians (Polity, 2001, 4th ed 2019) – I started to assess, from a moral perspective, the mechanisms by which parents transmit advantage (and disadvantage) to their children. My first book on this topic - How Not To Be A Hypocrite: School Choice for the Morally Perplexed Parent (Routledge 2003) – looks specifically at school choice. My second - Family Values: The Ethics of Parent-Child Relationships (with Harry Brighouse), (Princeton University Press 2014) – offers a general theory of parents’ rights.
My current research extends this work in two directions. With Anca Gheaus, I am exploring whether close personal relationships generate duties, or merely permissions, to favour particular others. With Mark Philp, I am thinking about children’s responsibilities to their ageing parents.
With Harry Brighouse, I have co-written several papers on educational justice. Having got together with a couple of empirical education scholars, we published Educational Goods: Values, Evidence and Decision-Making (with Helen F.Ladd and Susanna Loeb) (Chicago University Press 2018), which is intended to help educational policymakers make better policy.
Alongside these substantive interests, I have worked on methodological issues in political theory, including debates around ideal and non-ideal theory and the relation between philosophy, politics and empirical social science.