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Dean J. Machin

Leverhulme Research Fellow (2009-12)

Ph.D (Bristol), Visiting Fellow (Wisconsin-Madison), MA (Birkbeck College London), BA (University College London)

Sept 2011 - May 2012 (Princeton University's Center for Human Values), departmental guest.

Research Project: International Political Legitimacy

Generally, it is accepted that domestic political power is legitimate only where certain conditions obtain (e.g., it is democratic, it respects its citizens’ basic rights, & it treats their interests equally). But many of the powers traditionally exercised by the state are now exercised, whether formally or informally, by public and private international institutions.

Most of these international institutions are not democratic and many are not effectively held to account by external actors. In addition, we need international institutitons to address global problems (such as climate change) and realize important global goods (such as a fair system of international trade and finance). On what basis, then, can international institutions' power be legitimized?

The two dominant solutions are (i) to argue in favour of a reformed states system, i.e., a system of democratic and effectively equal states, or (ii) to make the case for some form of supra-state or global democracy.

My research rejects both of these approaches and offers a different kind of answer. I develop a non-democratic conception of political legitimacy that seeks to legitimize international institutions on an institution-by-institution basis as part of a liberal, but not necessarily democratic, global constitutional order. I take this to be a distinctive solution that is a plausible rival to (i) and (ii).

Selected publications

'Political equality and the 'super-rich': their money or (some of) their political rights' Res Publica (forthcoming)

'Political Legitimacy, the Egalitarian Challenge, and Democracy', the Journal of Applied Philosophy, Vol.29, no.2 (May 2012): 101-117

'The Problem of Global Law' (with Patrick Capps) Modern Law Review 74(5) (Sept 2011): 794-810

'Compulsory Turnout: a compelling (but contingent) case' Politics Vol.31. no.2 (June 2011): 100-6

‘Democracy, Judicial Review and Disagreements about Justice’ Legisprudence, Vol. III, Issue 1: Special Issue on Judicial Review (July 2009): 43-67

‘The Irrelevance of Democracy to the Public Justification of Political Authority’ Res Publica Vol.15, no.2 (May 2009): 103-120

Other interests

I am interested in political equality, and the trade-offs between the civil, political and economic liberties.

In a recent book Free Market Fairness (Princeton, 2012) John Tomasi has argued that the civil, political and economic liberties are equally morally basic. This is both different from the standard Rawlsian view (that the civil and political liberties are more basic) and compatible with both of the following claims:

1. like the political and civil liberties, the economic liberties CANNOT be limited for the sake of social justice;
2. like the economic liberties, the political and civil liberties CAN be limited for the sake of social justice;

I want to look at how far 2. can be pushed.

Public engagement

I have had letters published in the Financial Times about the justification of punishment (2/3 July 2011) and the political influence of the 'super-rich' (27/8 August 2011).

I have also contributed to a website run by Professor Wyn Grant (Politics, Warwick) about football/soccer. The article outines a novel way of empowering fans. See

In my spare time, I have also done some work for a think tank called the Social Market Foundation ( As at July 2012, I am producing a short report on the research-teaching balance in Humanities subjects in UK Higher Education. I also look at the potential implications for the Humanities of the increase in student tuition fees that will be effective from 2012/13.

New Pic


dean.machin at warwick ac uk



Office Hour

By appointment: please email