Department of Political Science

Prof Albert Weale

Prof Albert Weale

Emeritus Professor of the Department of Political Science

Dept of Political Science

Faculty of S&HS

Joined UCL
1st Aug 2022

Research summary

My general areas of research span Modern Political Theory and Public Policy.  Over my career I have linked the two through the analysis of political principles and public policy, which was evident in my first book Equality and Social Policy (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978) and subsequently in Political Theory and Social Policy (Macmillan, 1983).

Between 2009 and 2011 I held an ESCR Professorial Fellowship, working on modern (post-1950) social contract theory.  The first book from that fellowship was Democratic Justice and the Social Contract (Oxford University Press, 2013).  In 2020 Oxford University Press will publish my Modern Social Contract Theory.

In recent years, I have worked on democracy and democratic theory, the key text of which is Democracy (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), which is 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 exposed the misuse of a fictitious idea.

Alongside this strand of my work has gone an interest in understanding the democratic deficit of the European Union.  Building upon two jointly edited volumes Citizenship, Democracy and Justice in the New Europe, with Percy Lehning (Routledge, 1997) and  Political Theory and European Union: Legitimacy, Constitutional Choice and Citizenship, with Michael Nentwich (Routledge, 1998),  I published Democratic Citizenship and the European Union (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2005).

My empirical public policy interests have focused on comparative environmental policy in  Europe in particular.  This stream of work began with a joint project with Timothy O’Riordan published as Controlling Pollution in the Round, with T. O'Riordan and Louise Kramme, (Anglo-German Foundation, 1991).  The following year I published The New Politics of Pollution (Manchester University Press, 1992), which has been widely cited.   The culmination of this strand of work came with Environmental Governance in Europe: An Ever Closer Ecological Union?, with G. Pridham, M. Cini, D. Konstadakopulos, M. Porter and B. Flynn (Oxford University Press, 2000).

Together with members of the KCL/UCL Social Values Group, I have written extensively on priority-setting in health care.


Teaching summary

I have taught Politics for more than forty years, and I still find it an enjoyable and rewarding experience.

At UCL in recent years my main teaching has been on two courses.  The first is Theories and Actors of the Policy Process, which is one of the core courses for MSc Public Policy students, covering the main theoretical and analytical approaches to the study of public policy.  The second is Health Policy and Reform, which covers a range of topics in health policy.  I have also taught Social Values and Public Policy, which explicitly brings together normative reasoning and policy analysis.


I was born in Brighton in 1950, and at the age of five went to St Luke’s Primary School.  At eleven I went to Varndean Grammar School for Boys, and from my second year there was in the accelerated O level stream.  At fifteen I started A levels, doing English, History and Economics.  In the autumn of 1967 I won a place at Clare College Cambridge, where I read Theology.  Between leaving school in December 1967 and going to Clare in October 1968, I was a volunteer with Community Service Volunteers at a youth centre in Amesbury, Wiltshire.

After graduating in Theology in 1971, my original intention had been to write a thesis on the philosophical theology of Paul Tillich, a figure in whom I still retain an interest, but became absorbed by questions in political philosophy and the philosophy of the social sciences.  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.

In 1974 I was awarded the Sir James Knott Fellowship in the Department of Politics at the University of Newcastle.  In 1976 I was awarded a Lectureship in the Department of Politics at the University of York.  In 1985 I moved to the University of East Anglia as Professor of Politics and in 1992 I moved to the Department of Government at the University of Essex as Professor of Government.  In January 2010 I became Professor of Political Theory and Public Policy at UCL.

My main intellectual influences have been the work of John Rawls and H.L.A. Hart in contemporary political theory, and John Stuart Mill and Henry Sidgwick in the history of political thought.