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Dr Guy Aitchison

guyTeaching Fellow in Political Philosophy

Tel +44 (0)20 7848 7310
Address Room 403, Chesham Building
King's College London
London WC2R 2LS

I was previously an Irish Research Council Fellow at University College Dublin and before that a Max Weber Fellow at the European University Institute in Florence. I completed my PhD in Political Philosophy at UCL in 2015. I completed my MA in Legal and Political Theory at UCL and my undergraduate degree in History at Cambridge.

Research interests and PhD supervision
  • Human rights
  • Political resistance
  • Migration
  • Democratic theory

I work broadly within the normative analytical tradition, though I am also interested in critical theory and more applied approaches. My main focus is on human rights, democratic theory, political resistance and migration. I am particularly interested in the role that our normative concepts, such as rights, play in a context of political disagreement and conflict and in the issues of legitimacy which arise when people mobilise outside official institutional channels. There are two major strands to my current research.

The first strand is on theories of rights and rights politics. In this work, I set out a distinctive political account of rights based on the role the concept plays in political argument, identifying the value rights have as a tool to challenge unjust structures of power and inequality. I have published articles based on this work in Political Studies, Human Rights Review, European Journal of Political Theory and in an edited OUP volume on Radical Republicanism.

The second major strand is on democratic theory and political resistance. The over-arching aim of this work is to provide the first systematic popular republican (or neo-republican) account of democratic politics that accounts for the role of non-constitutional forms of popular action in resisting domination. In recent writings, I challenge the narrow focus within liberal political theory on civil disobedience, developing new conceptual categories, justifications and norms of engagement. A particular focus here has been the political mobilisation of irregular migrants and refugees. Based on this work, I have published articles in Perspectives on Politics and an article in Raisons Politiques, which formed part of a special issue on the question of ‘Uncivil disobedience’.

I have also recently become interested in the ethics of online public shaming and the limits on freedom of speech in the context of mass, participatory social media.

Selected publications
  • Aitchison, Guy, ‘Domination and disobedience: Protest, coercion and the limits of an appeal to justice’, Perspectives on Politics, Issue 16 (3) (2018).
  • Aitchison, Guy, ‘Coercion, resistance and the radical side of non-violent action’, Raisons Politiques, (2018).
  • Aitchison, Guy, ‘Are human rights moralistic?’, Human Rights Review, Issue 1, Vol. 19, (2017/18)
  • Aitchison, Guy, ‘Three Models of Republican Rights: Juridical, Parliamentary and Populist’, Political Studies, Vol. 65, Issue 2, (2016/17)
  • Aitchison, Guy, ‘Rights, Citizenship and political struggle’, European Journal of Political Theory, Vol. 17, Issue 1, (2015/17)

I teach modules on the history of political philosophy, applied ethics and economic and political philosophy. I am also contributing to team taught modules on the philosophy of race and gender and philosophy.

Expertise and public engagement 

I regularly write for various comment sites on social and political issues related to my work. I have written pieces for the Conversation on whether there is a moral right to cross borders and on the enfranchisement of immigrant residents and recently gave an interview for openDemocracy on the ethics and politics of migration.

I have also been interviewed in the Irish Times and in the Daily Telegraph on a new area of research I am developing on the ethics of cyber-shaming.

Alongside my academic work, I have worked on campaigns and projects in the third sector focused on human rights and constitutional reform. I was a research consultant to the Convention on Brexit and prior to beginning my PhD I acted as researcher for Power2010 and deputy director of the Convention on Modern Liberty. I was also managing editor of openDemoracyUK. After taking part in the UK student movement against tuition fees and cuts to education, I co-edited a book on it called Fight Back! (reviewed here by Paul Mason).



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