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25 January 2019

Professor Richard Tuck Delivers YTL Annual Lecture

The Yeoh Tiong Lay (YTL) Centre for Politics, Philosophy & Law's Annual Lecture was delivered by Professor Richard Tuck (Harvard), on 23 January.

Professor Richard Tuck
Professor Richard Tuck

The Yeoh Tiong Lay (YTL) Centre for Politics, Philosophy & Law’s Annual Lecture was delivered by Professor Richard Tuck (Harvard), on 23 January. 

In his lecture, 'Active and Passive Citizens', Professor Tuck offered a novel interpretation of the value of voting within a democratic majoritarian system, explaining that the value of casting such a vote does not merely consist in the instrumental effect of bringing about a desirable outcome nor in its expressive value.  

Instead, Professor Tuck offered an 'agentive' account of democratic voting, one inspired by Rousseau, according to which there is value in casting a vote as part of a collective system of political decision. It is the presence of this 'agentive' value, he argued, that helps mark the historically important distinction between active citizens and passive citizens.  

In his lecture, Professor Tuck also described various tendencies at work in the world today - such as technocratic rule by experts and the constitutional entrenchment of rights - which convert active citizens into passive citizens by withdrawing important political decisions from the remit of democratic majoritarianism. 

The lecture was followed on 24 January by a panel discussion exploring Professor Tuck’s work on theories of democracy. Professor Tuck was joined by Dr Hannah Dawson (King's), Professor Richard Ekins (Oxford) & Professor Lea Ypi (LSE). This discussion was chaired by Dr Munira Mirza (Executive Director, King's Culture). 

Director of the YTL Centre for Politics, Philosophy & Law, Professor John Tasioulas, described the panel discussion as ‘An extremely rewarding interdisciplinary discussion’, while also highlighting the scope of Professor Tuck’s lecture. 

‘Drawing both on the resources of the history of political thought and contemporary political theory, Professor Tuck offered a rich and multi-faceted account of the nature and value of democratic political processes,’ Professor Tasioulas said. ‘Among its many other merits, Professor Tuck's account helps clarify the great challenges confronting citizens in contemporary democracies.’  

A video of the public lecture and written responses to the discussion will soon be available on the YTL webpages.  

About Professor Richard Tuck  

Richard Tuck is Frank G Thomson Professor of Government Theory in the Department of Government, Harvard University. He taught at the University of Cambridge from 1973 to 1995.

Professor Tuck is a premier scholar of the history of political thought. His works include Natural Rights Theories (1979), Hobbes (1989), and Philosophy and Government, 1572-1651 (1993), The Rights of War and Peace (2001), Free Riding (2008) and The Sleeping Sovereignty: The Invention of Modern Democracy (2016). With Chris Bickerton, he is the author of A Brexit Proposal (2018). 

About the Yeoh Tiong Lay Centre for Politics, Philosophy & Law  

The Yeoh Tiong Lay Centre for Politics, Philosophy & Law was founded in 2014 as a focal point for interdisciplinary research in law from the perspective of both philosophy and politics. Although based in The Dickson Poon School of Law, the Centre has close links with King’s departments of Philosophy and Political Economy.  

The Centre fosters interdisciplinary research involving politics, philosophy, and law within King's, while simultaneously bridging the gap between these academic disciplines and public decision-making. It strives to illuminate the major questions of our day through the application of rigorous interdisciplinary thought in politics, philosophy and law.  

Find out more about the Centre and its work on the Yeoh Tiong Lay Centre for Politics, Philosophy & Law webpages.