My research interests are in the politics of digital platforms and the history of political thought. This page covers my research publications. You can find my non-academic essays and op/eds in the Writing tab. The publications are divided into six sections:
- Digital Labour
- Socialist Republicanism
- The German Revolution and Council Democracy
- Political Parties
- Hannah Arendt and Democracy
- 19th/20th Century European Philosophy
This article contrasts two reform proposals articulated in recent debates about how to democratize the digital economy: data-owning democracy and digital socialism. A data-owning democracy is a political-economic regime characterized by the widespread distribution of data as capital among citizens, whereas digital socialism entails the social ownership of productive assets in the digital economy and popular control over digital services. The article argues that while a degree of complementarity exists between the two, there are important limitations to theories of data-owning democracy that have not yet received significant attention within the literature. The bulk of the article highlights three ways in which digital socialists would consider a data-owning democracy to fall short of achieving a more just digital economy: a lack of workplace democracy, limitations in terms of scope, and a lack of democratic control over long-term investment decisions in new technology. The article thus contributes to determining what is at stake in recent debates about how to democratize the digital economy.
Rise and Grind: Microwork and Hustle Culture in the UK (Autonomy, 2022)
Microwork has provided new opportunities for workers to participate in the labour market but has been found to exacerbate labour market inequalities. Workers on these platforms are not classified as employees under labour law and are often paid below minimum wage for their work. In this report, we outline a range of policies which could help improve working conditions for microworkers within the UK. In addition to the set of Universal Workers’ Rights we have developed in earlier research, we propose policies specifically for the microwork sector: including ‘finders fees’ and payment for pre-task tests to ensure that all the time microworkers actually spend working is remunerated, as well as ratings systems for contractors and worker messaging systems so that microworkers are better placed to organise for improved working conditions.
Platform Socialism: How to Reclaim our Digital Future from Big Tech (Pluto Press, 2022)
Whoever controls the platforms, controls the future. Platform Socialism sets out an alternative vision and concrete proposals for a digital economy that expands our freedom.
Powerful tech companies now own the digital infrastructure of twenty-first century social life. Masquerading as global community builders, these companies have developed sophisticated new techniques for extracting wealth from their users.
The book shows how grassroots communities and transnational social movements can take back control from Big Tech. He reframes the technology debate and proposes a host of new ideas from the local to the international for how we can reclaim the emancipatory possibilities of digital platforms. Drawing on sources from forgotten histories to contemporary prototypes, he proposes an alternative system and charts a roadmap for how we can get there.
Delivering Rights: Alternatives in the Online Food Economy (Autonomy, 2021)
- The report notes the various problems with the current platform system, including a tendency to monopoly, poor working conditions and exacerbated inequality.
- An alternative path is tracked, via a proposal for a food delivery cooperative, that retains the various benefits of the platform model but integrates more equal outcomes.
- New urban infrastructure is proposed, from rider service stations, rest and meeting zones, and dedicated dispatch zones.
How to Launch a Food Delivery Co-operative (Autonomy, 2021)
This ‘How to’ guide was produced in collaboration with CoopCycle and Cooperatives UK and shows how to set up a food delivery cooperative.
Platforming Equality: Policy Challenges for the Digital Economy (Autonomy, 2020)
A collection of papers on the challenges that the digital economy poses to policymakers, activists and researchers. The collection explores policy options for alleviating a range of new challenges that have emerged within the digital economy. Articles cover topics including microwork, platform co-operatives, wages in the gig economy and migrant labour. Authors suggest a range of policy recommendations and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches. Each contributor examines a specific issue based on their own research and an analysis of the existing literature. They then provide their own perspective on the policies that would be most suitable.
Digital platforms and application software have changed how people work in a range of industries. Empirical studies of the gig economy have raised concerns about new systems of algorithmic management exercised over workers and how these alter the structural conditions of their work. Drawing on the republican literature, we offer a theoretical account of algorithmic domination and a framework for understanding how it can be applied to ride-hail and food delivery services in the on-demand economy. We argue that certain algorithms can facilitate new relationships of domination by sustaining a socio-technical system in which the owners and managers of a company dominate workers. This analysis has implications for the growing use of algorithms throughout the gig economy and broader labor market.
Contemporary democratic theorists have tended to assume that democracy is compatible with and even requires a capitalist economic system. Rosa Luxemburg offers a democratic criticism of this view, arguing that the dominating effects of a capitalist economy undermine the ability of liberal democracy to actualize its ideals of freedom and equality in practice. Drawing on Luxemburg’s writings, this article theorizes a model of socialist democracy which combines support for public ownership and control of the means of production with a plural multi-party electoral system and a defense of civil liberties. It recovers Luxemburg’s conceptualization of a socialist democracy as the extension of democratic principles to major social and economic institutions currently governed by nondemocratic authority structures. It defends this version of socialist democracy from the liberal objection that it violates citizens’ property rights and the Marxist objection that it retains the dominating structures of the state and a coercive legal system. It is argued that this model overcomes the undemocratic constraints of a capitalist economy and provides a robust institutional framework for an open and plural political society.
‘Aux Ouvrières!’ Socialist Feminism in the Paris Commune (Intellectual History Review, 2021)
Feminist and socialist movements both aim at emancipation yet have often been at odds. The socialist feminists of the Paris Commune provide one of the few examples in late nineteenth-century Europe of a political movement combining the two. This article offers a new interpretation of the Commune feminists, focusing on the working-class women’s organisation the Union des femmes. We highlight how the Commune feminists articulated the specific form of oppression experienced by working-class women as both women and workers, which consequently required a joint, yet differentiated, struggle to overcome. We explore three aspects of this framework. First, the Commune feminists offered a vision of the transformation of the social through reforms to girls’ education, the family and women’s work. Second, they practiced a politics of coalition building by connecting their struggle with those of other oppressed groups, such as male workers, peasants and workers of other nations. Third, these ideas were instantiated in the Union des femmes’ novel proposal for women’s worker co- operatives as part of a socialist re-organisation of the economy.
Institutionalizing Radical Democracy: Socialist Republicanism and Democratizing the Economy (New Political Science, 2021)
This article proposes a reorientation of the radical democracy research programs toward a greater attentiveness to the institutional realization of its principles. It does so by bringing the radical democratic tradition into conversation with socialist republicanism. I argue that the struggle against domination requires engaging with political and economic institutions to extend democratic principles from the governmental sphere to broader sectors of society. By combining insights from both traditions, the article suggests shifting attention from an emphasis on disruption and insurgent uprisings to the goals of equalizing power between citizens and instituting democratic ownership and control over the economy. This framework enables radical democracy to respond to long-standing criticisms concerning the need for a more robust articulation of the injustices caused by capitalist relations of production.
In response to the republican revival of the ideal of freedom as non-domination, a number of ‘radical’, ‘labour’ and ‘workplace’ republicans have criticised the limitations of Philip Pettit’s account of freedom and government. This article proposes that the missing link in these debates is the relationship between republicanism and socialism. Seeking to bring this connection back into view in historical and theoretical terms, the article draws from contemporary radical republicans and the writings of Karl Kautsky and Rosa Luxemburg to propose a socialist republican theory of freedom and government. This consists of a conception of freedom as collective autonomy and a participatory democratic vision of a decentralised state with parliamentary institutions, the rule of law, worker-controlled workplaces, community-directed investment and a political culture of solidarity and public-spiritedness. This theory of socialist republicanism seeks to overcome the weaknesses and limitations of each respective independent theory and should appeal to republicans and socialists alike.
Council Democracy and the German Revolution
The German council movements arose through mass strikes and soldier mutinies towards the end of the First World War. They brought down the German monarchy, founded several short-lived council republics, and dramatically transformed European politics. Building Power to Change the World reconstructs how participants in the German council movements struggled for a democratic socialist society. It examines their attempts to democratize politics, the economy, and society through building powerful worker-led organisations and cultivating workers’ political agency.
After Council Communism: The Post-War Rediscovery of the Council Tradition (Intellectual History Review, 2020)
This article traces a discontinuous tradition of council thought from the Dutch and German council communist tendencies of the 1920s to its re-emergence in the writings of three important mid-twentieth-century political theorists: Cornelius Castoriadis, Claude Lefort, and Hannah Arendt. It connects an intellectual history of the council concept in post-war Europe with a political history of the small revolutionary groups that fostered council-related political activity during this era. It claims that, as the experience of the European council movements began to be interpreted within a new political context, this gave rise to several radically altered forms of council thought. In this more subjectivist and praxis-oriented tradition, the councils became a utopian placeholder for theorists to explore their particular interests in human creativity (Castoriadis), self-limiting power (Lefort), and political freedom (Arendt). This analysis develops our understanding of the continuities and ruptures of the council tradition within political thought.
Luise Kautsky: The Forgotten Soul of the Socialist Movement (Historical Materialism, 2020)
This article draws on archival research to recover the legacy of Luise Kautsky – journalist, editor, translator, politician and wife of Karl Kautsky – who has been overlooked as a leading member of the socialist movement. First, by adopting a feminist historical lens to reveal the unacknowledged intellectual labour of women, the article reassesses Luise Kautsky’s relationship to Karl Kautsky and his writings. The evidence suggests that Luise Kautsky was essential to the development, editing and dissemination of the work of Karl Kautsky. Second, the article claims Luise Kautsky played an invaluable practical role as the hub of an international network of socialist scholars and activists, acting as mediator, translator and middle point through her extensive correspondence and by hosting members of this network at her house. Finally, the article recovers her labour as a writer, editor and translator and calls for renewed attention to her as an independent figure of historical analysis.
The German Revolution and Political Theory (ed.) (Palgrave, 2019)
This book is the first collection within political theory to examine the ideas and debates of the German Revolution of 1918/19. It discusses the political theorists and actors of the revolution and uncovers an incredibly fertile body of political thought. Revolutionary events led to the proliferation of new political strategies, theoretical insights and institutional proposals. Key questions included the debate between a national assembly and a council system, the socialisation of the economy, the development of new forms of political representation and the proper role of parliaments, political parties and trade unions. This book offers novel perspectives on the history of the revolution, a thorough engagement with its main thinkers and an analysis of its relevance for contemporary political thought.
Council Democracy: Towards a Democratic Socialist Politics (ed.) (Routledge, 2018)
The return to public assemblies and direct democratic methods in the wave of the global “squares movements” since 2011 has rejuvenated interest in forms of council organisation and action. The European council movements, which developed in the immediate post-First World War era, were the most impressive of a number of attempts to develop workers’ councils throughout the twentieth century. However, in spite of the recent challenges to liberal democracy, the question of council democracy has so far been neglected within democratic theory. This book seeks to interrogate contemporary democratic institutions from the perspective of the resources that can be drawn from a revival and re-evaluation of the forgotten ideal of council democracy.
Conceptualising party-driven movements (BJPIR, 2020)
This article contributes to scholarship on the relationship between political parties and social movements by proposing the concept of ‘party-driven movements’ to understand the formation of a new hybrid model within existing political parties in majoritarian systems. In our two case studies – Momentum’s relationship with the UK Labour Party and the Bernie Sanders-inspired ‘Our Revolution’ with the US Democratic Party – we highlight the conditions under which they emerge and their key characteristics. We analyse how party-driven movements express an ambivalence in terms of strategy (working inside and outside the party), political aims (aiming to transform the party and society) and organisation (in the desire to maintain autonomy while participating within party structures). Our analysis suggests that such party-driven movements provide a potential answer to political parties’ alienation from civil society and may thus be a more enduring feature of Anglo-American majoritarian party systems than the current literature suggests.
This chapter reviews certain research that has focused on the evolving relation of Populist Radical Right (PRR) and mainstream politics, and in particular the strategic response of mainstream parties to the rise of far-right parties on the fringe of the political spectrum. It shows that they represent a new stage in the mainstreaming of PRR discourse, with a change in the fundamental dynamic of what has been called the “normalisation of the right”. In addition to studying the effect of PRR politics on the political mainstream, the wave of scholarship starting in the 2000s has also reversed the gaze, and considered the influence of mainstream radicalisation on Populist Radical Right Parties. While it is unlikely the traditional rivalries between liberal and conservative parties will be completely displaced by emerging paradigms, political events in 2016–2017 have led to a radical shake up of party competition. The chapter also presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in this book.
The Front National achieved unprecedented success in the 2017 French presidential elections, which poses a significant challenge for how competitors against the far right could counter its appeal. Taking as a starting point the existing literature on mainstream party strategies with regard to the far right, this article develops a novel approach. It draws on the insights of positioning theory to analyse a total of 108 speeches and interviews in which the four main candidates to the French Presidency in the 2017 campaign talk about the far right. We find significant variation in candidates’ patterns of discourse, but also establish that these distinct strategies are better understood as complex hybrids of the categories in the literature.
Hannah Arendt and Democracy
Arendt’s Revolutionary Constitutionalism: Between Constituent Power and Constitutional Form (Constellations, 2015)
This article offers a novel interpretation of Hannah Arendt’s constitutional thought that provides new insights into debates on constituent power. I argue that Arendt proposes a unique blending of constituent power and constitutional form that seeks to avoid the pitfalls of the dissipation of political action within a liberal constitutional order and the loss of a stable realm of freedom to a permanent revolution. She argues that the “revolutionary spirit” of political action should be maintained in a constitutional regime in a demobilised form through both a participatory council system and the continual interpretation and amendment of a constitutional document. Arendt opposes Emmanuel Sieyès’ conception of constituent power as a unified will in a state of nature with an interpretation of the nascent political acts and institutions of an organised yet plural multitude. She offers a radically open form of constitutionalism in which both ordinary laws and the constitution itself are continually evolving through the interruption and intrusion of democratic politics.
Arendtian Principles (Political Studies, 2016)
This article addresses the crucial role political principles play in Hannah Arendt’s account of political action and judgment. It proposes a new interpretive framework for understanding their political logic and the varied contexts within which they appear in Arendt’s work. Principles can be understood according to three distinct perspectives from which they inspire, guide and organise political action. Reading Montesquieu alongside Kant, Arendt claims that principles operate according to a logic of exemplarity. Political action carries within itself and exemplifies a more general principle, which nevertheless cannot be determined as a rule. It does not establish a universal law according to which future action could be determined, but it does attempt to embody and exemplify a more general standard against which future action could be judged. Arendt argues that attending to the importance of principles in politics offers new possibilities for returning to the past and transforming contemporary practices.
The Lost Treasure of Arendt’s Council System (Critical Horizons, 2011)
Hannah Arendt’s On Revolution offers a critique of modern representative democracy combined with a manifesto-like treatise on council systems as they have arisen over the course of revolutions and uprisings. However, Arendt’s contribution to democratic theory has been obscured by her commentators who argue that her reflections on democracy are either an aberration in her work or easily reconcilable within a liberal democratic framework. This paper seeks to provide a comprehensive outline of Arendt’s writing on the council system and a clarification of her work outside the milieu of the post-Cold War return to Arendt. Her analyses bring to light a political system that guarantees civil and political rights while allowing all willing citizens direct participation in government. Framing her discussion within the language of the current renewed interest in constituent power, her council system could be described as a blending together of constituent power and constitutional form. Arendt resists the complete dominance and superiority of either element and argues that the foundation of a free state requires nothing less than the stabilization and persistence of constituent power within an open and fluid institution that would resist either the bureaucratization of politics or its dispersal into a revolutionary flux.
The Origins of Hannah Arendt’s Council System (History of Political Thought, 2016)
This article reconsiders Arendt’s frequently ignored proposal of a federal council system. While Arendt’s references to a council system are usually dismissed by her interpreters, I re-examine Arendt’s political writings in order to demonstrate the centrality of the councils to her thought. The development of the council system is traced back to two primary sources: a council communist tradition of Rosa Luxemburg and Arendt’s husband, Heinrich Blücher, and Arendt’s Jewish writings of the 1930s and 1940s. The analysis reveals that Arendt’s republicanism undertakes a council communist inflection, which has not yet been fully appreciated. Her distinct variety of council republicanism emphasizes the participatory and popularly empowered nature of council institutions.
19th/20th C European Philosophy
Lazzarato and the Micropolitics of Invention (Theory, Culture & Society, 2014)
Drawing from the writings of Deleuze and Foucault, various forms of political vitalism have emerged as one of the most dominant approaches to radical politics today. However, there has been considerable disagreement over the terms on which a debate over vitalism’s perceived utility should be carried out. This has allowed for a great confusion over what is at stake in the vitalist controversy. This article argues that an analysis of the most recent works of Maurizio Lazzarato, one of the most prominent contemporary political vitalists, assists in clarifying the terms of the debate and provides a rebuttal of several of the most common criticisms of political vitalist thought. Through his engagement with the work of French sociologist Gabriel Tarde, Lazzarato has developed a distinct variety of neo-monadology that analyses the world in terms of micro-psychic forces. On the basis of this ontology, Lazzarato constructs a politics of multiplicity consisting of open strategies of experimentation and creation, which he argues offers the best form of resistance to neo-liberal capitalism. It is argued that Lazzarato is able to provide an answer to the three common charges that vitalism is a mysticism, suffers from a lack of normative foundations, and has an incoherent political programme.
Foucault’s Forgotten Hegelianism (Parrhesia, 2014)
Rarely is Foucault’s work put into a meaningful dialogue with one of the most important and influential philosophers of the continental tradition: G. W. F. Hegel. On the one hand, it is not difficult to view Hegel and Foucault as diametrically opposed thinkers. Hegel is the arch-modernist, system builder, conservative and closed thinker of “absolute knowledge.” Foucault is the post-modernist, sceptic and nominalist who turned against systematic philosophy and universal knowledge claims. It first appears that never could two more radically divergent thinkers be found. However, there are many striking similarities and points of contact of their respective projects. Placing the two in conversation reveals interesting parallels in their conceptualisations of political freedom, philosophical methodology and modernity. I argue that Foucault can be located within a Hegelian tradition of thought, as one of its most interesting variants, rather than as an anti- or non-Hegelian thinker. This has serious implications for how we conceptualise Foucault’s work and its relation to critical theory today.
Hegel’s Philosophy of Drives (Noesis Press, 2014)
Hegel’s Philosophy of Drives demonstrates the importance and centrality of the concept of the drives to Hegel’s thought and reveals the ways in which a focus on this concept transforms our understanding of the Hegelian project. It examines the drives as they are developed throughout Hegel’s writing, exploring the dynamic and affective dimensions of human existence. Hegel shows that drives are not merely pathological distractions from the moral law or natural and fixed determinations of an inert human nature. Human drives are themselves plastic, malleable and susceptible to transformation through a process of education and cultural development Hegel connects the actualisation of freedom in concrete social institutions to the transformation of individuals’ immediate and natural drives into fully mediated cultural ones. The Hegel that emerges in this book is neither an antiquated thinker of the past nor a visionary of a future to come. He is a critical thinker of the present – both his and our own. The book is also an excellent introduction to the development of Hegel’s thinking and provides an overview of the major points of his ethical and political thought.