Director's Welcome


Welcome to The Political Theory Project, a vibrant new research center at Brown University.

The Political Theory Project is founded on the belief that critical thinking about politics must cash out into testable claims about our social world. Responsible criticism of political institutions must be conducted in light of economic realities and the findings of mainstream social science. These disciplines provide ballast to political discourse. They ensure that the formation of each student's political opinions be a result of considered, well-rounded decision—grounded in the complexity of historical and institutional reality—rather than a mere rehearsal of ideology, or an expression of intellectual fashion.

The Political Theory Project supports scholarship that is intimately concerned with political ideals that actually work in the world, providing security, opportunity, and freedom for those who affirm them. This concern with theories that work does not commit the Political Theory Project to any particular ideological orientation. We are interested in ideas and are committed to searching out insights from whatever parts of the political spectrum where we might find them. Our interest in connecting normative theory to actual practice, however, does direct our attention in the first instance to a set of norms that have a record of providing modern societies with a measure of stability, wealth, and well-being: individual rights, the rule of law, private property and systems of market exchange, religious liberty, freedoms of speech and association, democratic self-governance, and the ideal of voluntarism in human affairs.

Of course, each of these norms is subject to multiple interpretations. Some of these interpretations may be woven into patterns and then folded neatly under some one ideological label or another. At the Political Theory Project, we are not interested in such labels. Indeed, discourse at the level of labels is a central characteristic of the internalized, mono-disciplinary forms of discourse to which we mean to provide an alternative. The Political Theory Project is determined to provide a space at Brown where students and faculty can go beneath the labels. The Political Theory Project—the courses, study groups, and lecture events we sponsor—are places where individuals of good faith, and diverse viewpoints, can come together to untangle the rivalrous roots of political reality for themselves.

John Tomasi, Director


Photo by: Lydia Tomasi